Juvenile Incarceration Essay

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Juvenile incarceration is a racialized and gendered practice that highlights larger trends of inequality in the United States. In our current society, following a trend that has increased exponentially, poverty has become inextricably linked with incarceration as the poor are largely criminalized through draconian policies in the name of ideological warfare, i.e. the War on Poverty, the War on Crime, and the War on Drugs. As Loic Wacquant writes in Punishing the Poor, the nation has shifted from a protectionist state to a paternalistic one(1) Loic Wacquant, “The Criminalization of Poverty in the Post-Civil Rights Era,” Punishing the Poor (Duke University Press, 2009). As the War on Poverty inevitably becomes a war against the poor, the youth in America are tragically caught in the crossfire. In response to this important issue, several at-risk youth advocate programs have enacted campaigns to bring awareness to the public and reverse detrimental legislations. One such campaign, aptly named “Books Not Bars” was begun by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.(2) The name was taken from a chant protestors yelled during the fight to prevent the building of a youth “super-jail” in Alameda: “Schools Not Jails, Books Not Bars”. In this paper, I will illustrate the ways in which the Books Not Bars (BNB) campaign launched by the Ella Baker Center addresses juvenile incarceration, a key issue in the problem space of urban poverty. In the United States, incarceration rates have had an exponential growth since the 1980s (see Graph 1). This incredible growth of incarceration is mind-boggling, once one considers “we account for 25 percent of all prisoners but only 5 percent of the global population.” (3) Steven Hawkins, “Education vs Incarceration,” The American Prospect, December 6, 2010 http://prospect.org/article/education-vs-incarceration. This disturbing trend has led

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