BLACK-MALES-INCARCERATEDNEW YORK — Mass incarceration of African Americans has contributed significantly to the racial achievement gap in the nation’s schools, according to a recent report.

The so-called war on drugs vastly expanded the U.S. prison population. But while African Americans are no more likely to sell or use drugs, they are three times more likely to be arrested, more likely to be convicted and will serve more time in prison than whites.According to Leila Morsy, co-author of the report and senior lecturer at the University of New South Wales, when a parent is sent to prison, his or her children become more susceptible to depression, behavioral problems and ADHD.

“Their grade point average drops, they’re also more likely to drop out of school,” Morsy said. “Boys are more likely to drop out because they themselves have been incarcerated.”

The report, published by the Economic Policy Institute, urged educators to join with criminal justice reformers to advocate for policies that would end mass incarceration.

For years, law enforcement in New York City has focused on communities of color. Almost 55 percent of inmates in the jail on Rikers Island are African American, compared with just 7 percent who are white.

Ames Grawert, counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, said the impact on inmates’ children and entire communities can be devastating.

“The stories that come out of there are just staggering,” Grawert said. “Imagine having to come from that and work that into your life experience back at home or having to expose children to that for visitation.”

About 10,000 inmates are held on Rikers Island, many of whom are awaiting trial.

Morsy stressed that sentencing reform and increased educational and employment opportunities for released offenders would benefit those left behind when a parent goes to jail.

“Improvements in our criminal justice policies will lead to improved outcomes for children and are very likely to contribute to narrowing the achievement gap,” she said.

In 2014, more than 600,000 inmates nationally were serving sentences of a year or more in state prisons for nonviolent crimes.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service – NY

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