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42% of DC Young Black Men Said to Be in Justice System

More then 40 percent of the black men age 18 to 35 in the District of Columbia were "firmly in the grip of the criminal justice system" on an average day last year, according to a study by the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives (NCIA), an Alexandria, Virginia, based organization that promotes alternatives to incarceration.

"In effect, the social safety net has been replaced by a dragnet," NCIA President Jerome G. Miller said, "sweeping up the most energetic and vital segments of Washington's population into a criminal justice system capable only of further damaging future prospects for employability and productivity."

Using District of Columbia government reports, Dr. Miller calculated that 12,500 District residents were in local jail facilities or federal prison on an average day last year, and that 7,800 of those were black males of age 18 to 35. That represents 15 percent of all the black males in that age group in the city, he said.

Another 6,000 black men were on local probation, plus 3,700 on local parole and 1,300 on federal probation or parole. About 3,500 young black men were free on bond awaiting disposition of criminal charges. In addition, there were about 1,500 outstanding felony warrants and 2,000 outstanding misdemeanor warrants for the arrest of young black men.

Allowing for duplication of counting and repeat offenders, Dr. Miller concluded that 42 percent of the black men were either under direct correctional supervision, on bond awaiting disposition of criminal cases, or being sought on warrants for their arrest. "The implications of these one day figures are ominous," he said, because they suggest that if present policies continue, 75 percent of black men will be arrested and jailed at least once between the ages of 18 and 35.

Miller cited earlier studies indicating high arrest rates for black males, such as a 1990 Sentencing Project finding that the United States leads the world in incarceration, with the highest rates among black males. "One must question a public policy which results in this type of outcome," he said.

Report: For a copy of Hobbling a Generation: Young AfricanAmerican Males in D.C's Criminal Justice System or additional information, contact the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives, 635 Slaters Lane, Suite G-100, Alexandria VA 22314. (703) 684-0373. Fax: (703) 684-6037.

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