The impact of mass incarceration on peoples of African descent: an interview with Dr. Raymond A. Winbush.

Author:Von Robertson, Ray

Raymond A. Winbush, Ph.D. is a scholar/activist in reference to the developmental psychology of African boys, and for reparations for the Trans-Atlantic trade in human beings. He is currently Director of the Institute for Urban Research at Morgan State University in Baltimore Maryland, the former Benjamin Hooks Professor of Social Justice at Fisk University, past Director of the Fisk University Race Relations Institute, and the former Assistant Provost and Director of the Johnson Black Cultural Center at Vanderbilt University.

RR (Ray Von Robertson): When you hear phrases like mass incarceration or the prison industrial complex, what thoughts immediately come to mind?

RW (Raymond A. Winbush): My thoughts are immediately summed up in two words, or three words, I guess, Black people and enslavement, because they are so closely associated with each other.

RR: What specifically related to those two words come to mind?

RW: Well, I always tell Black folks that we need to visit the thirteenth amendment of the constitution because it clearly states that enslavement was abolished, except for the punishment for a crime.

To me, there is a straight line between enslavement and the peonage system where they would loan out Black people who were in jail and the modern Prison Industrial Complex. It is a straight historical line. And so these words "mass incarceration" do not make you think of White people or women. You think of Black men. And that again is a straight line.

This silly show on T.V., Orange is the New Black was written by a White woman who was in jail for a year. She does not have a history.... what do you mean, the new Black? In other words, we are supposed to thing that mass incarceration is not happening to us. So when I think of mass incarceration, to me, as a scholar, there is a direct connection between enslavement and mass incarceration.

RR: Why do you think of Black men when it comes to mass incarceration instead of Black women?

See, there was no mass incarceration of Black men during enslavement because you had free labor. It was real simple. Black women are involved in mass incarceration now, in fact, the fastest increase, or one of the fastest increasing prison populations is Black women. But look at the crimes they are committing. Most women are committing economic crimes--selling drugs, writing bad checks, sex trade, prostitution, as opposed to the men who are there for violence and non-violent drug offenses. I think the reason...

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