March 25, 2009

the cost of self-righteousness

Read this post of Ta-Nehisi's about the costs of being tough on crime.

"This is more than theory for me. Ten years ago, my college friend Prince Jones was followed by a cop from Prince George's county Maryland, into the District, and out into the suburbs of Virginia, where he was going to see his young daughter and girlfriend. The police officer was allegedly looking for a drug dealer--a short man with long dreads. Prince was about 6'3 and wore a low caesar. The officer and Prince ended up in a confrontation, merely yards away from the home of Prince's girlfriend. He produced no badge, just a gun and a claim that he was a cop. Prince didn't believe him (and without a badge, I wouldn't have either) and rammed the guy's car. The cop shot Prince eight times, killing him.


"Despite a botched operation, that spanned three jurisdictions, and resulted in the death of an innocent man, and orphaned a girl who will have no memories of her father, the officer was neither prosecuted, nor bounced off the force."

1 in 100 adult Americans in jail. 1 in 31 adults under correctional control. 1 in 11 black adults. Those are not trivial costs, and they speak only to those directly legally sanctioned. Those legal sanctions have a corrosive effect on the willingness of African-Americans (and anyone disproportionately affected by them) to trust the criminal justice system, but Ta-Nehisi's friend was the child of a radiologist, a college student, someone who might have been expected to escape those costs. Because of his color, he did not. When people talk about the "success" of the war on drugs, those costs - and who pays them - deserve to be remembered.

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