Statistics show minorities make up majority of prison population
Published: Thursday, November 29, 2007
Updated: Wednesday, September 2, 2009 14:09
A young man went down the wrong road in life.
He sold drugs, committed crimes and hung out with the wrong crowd.
He was imprisoned for a year and a half on charges of possession of firearms and burglary of a habitation.
He turned his life around when he decided to obtain a business degree and create a positive future for himself.
Business freshman David Martinez, 23, took control of his life by surrounding himself with different friends, changing his environment and keeping himself busy with three jobs: as a commercial electrician, a club bouncer and yard man.
He said having a girlfriend has been beneficial to him because it lessens his likelihood of getting into more trouble, and his family has been a good support system throughout his life.
"I chose to go to college because to me, it's more about books. It helps me to learn and think. It's about the real world and looking for ways to comprehend matter and apply knowledge to a job or company, like construction," Martinez said.
With a positive attitude and a new path in life, Martinez's goals are to generate contracts and own an electronics company.
Many young men and some young women have followed roughly the same path as Martinez.
The United States has a large population of minorities going into prison instead of college.
Sociology Professor Gloria Pimentel said there is a larger percentage of minorities behind bars than whites.
CNN reported three times as many black people live in cells as in dormitories: 2.7 times as many Hispanics are in prison as in college, and more than twice as many whites live in college housing than prison cells.
These statistics do not include the number of students living off campus, but present a reality check.
The U.S. Census Bureau reported that in 2006, African-Americans made up 41 percent of the 2 million prison and jail inmates, Hispanics made up 19 percent and whites 37 percent.
Statistics show that minorities are more likely to be in jail than in school. Pimentel said various factors play roles in the future of minorities.
There is an unequal distribution of power and income, in which those who are well off benefit and receive the best while the powerless get what is left.
Blacks and Hispanics are more likely to live in segregated areas with poor education systems.
The environment is very important because children are victimized in a negative lifestyle of violence and crime at an early age, and it becomes accepted as normal.
Many stereotypes in society judge blacks as having bad attitudes, being disrespectful and having a low success rate.
Mass media portray minorities as violent, which contributes to a negative image and an expectation of that behavior.
Reality shows like the Fox network's "Cops" encourage these stereotypes, she said.
Pimentel said black men in America have a life expectancy of seven to 10 years shorter than their white counterparts.
The minority community risks incarceration, deep poverty and homicide, but education is the important factor in reducing crime and creating more opportunities for success, she said.
"Fairness is something that is wanted in society, and to be treated fairly and equally is deeply needed," she said.
But even a good start in life is no guarantee.
Unlike some others,, Martinez said he had a good childhood and home environment.
Each situation, each individual is different.
Martinez advised that if youth find themselves following a destructive pattern, they should stop, recognize it and make an effort to create a self-revolution.
He said everyone can talk the talk, but walking the walk makes a difference.
He said to show seriousness to employers, one should go to submit applications or to interviews properly prepared with a résumé.
"Life is about who you know, what you know and how you can apply yourself," he said.
Minorities behind bars
Based on rates of incarceration: 32 percent of black males will be in prison compared to 17 percent of Hispanics and 5.9 percent of whites. An estimated 57 percent of inmates have a high school diploma or equivalent. One of three inmates has grown up in abusive environments. 12 percent of inmates have lived in a foster home. More minorities are behind bars than in college. Half of the population of women in jail reported being sexually abused. Source: Bureau of Justice based on Criminal Offender Statistics