JSPAN, NAACP & KI Sponsored MLK Day Panel on Mass Incarceration

Just as Jim Crow once directly targeted African Americans, incarceration continues to fall disproportionately on communities of color. The racial, political and economic implications of
“Mass Incarceration” were the topic of a dynamic and engaging panel discussion at the 4th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial program cosponsored by the Cheltenham Area Branch of the NAACP, Congregation Keneseth Israel and the Jewish Social Policy Action Network.

The panel of academic and community experts featured (1) Michael Coard, Esquire, Chair of ATAC-Avenging the Ancestors Coalition, (2) Angus Love, Esquire, Director of the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project, (3) Dr. Doreen Loury, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice at Arcadia University, and (4) Wayne Jacobs, Co-Founder of X-Offenders for Community Empowerment. Troy Wilson, Esquire, founding partner of the law firm of Wilson & Wilson, LLP, moderated the panel and fielded numerous questions and comments from the audience of over a hundred people in the sanctuary at KI on the evening of January 20.

The panel explored the meaning and implications of the “school to prison pipeline,” noting that it
is not a new phenomenon. According to attorney Coard, one in three Black men in his twenties is
in jail, probation or parole, and there are more Black men in prison or under control of the
criminal justice system than Black men who were enslaved in 1850. Among the issues discussed
by the panelists were the historical underpinnings of mass incarceration of people of color, the
shift in resources from “education to incarceration,” the need to raise young Black men with
training to successfully field this environment, the increasing number of mothers in prison, the
role of economic class and the continuing negative consequences after release to the community.

All the panelists advocated for a call to action to stop the “pipeline.” Dr. Loury urged that change
“needs to be viewed as a social justice movement” noting that “White America needs to be
involved and to see that it is beneficial to them.” Attorney Love agreed and, in response to an
inquiry from the audience, he opined that he was hopeful that the “pipeline” was “maxing out,”
reviewing the many developments that have led him to be encouraged. Mr. Jacobs spoke about
potential solutions such as early childhood education.

From the audience, Matt Pillischer, producer of the film about mass incarceration, “Broken on
All Sides” (www.brokenonallsides.com), joined the call to action noting that “there are more
people incarcerated than ever before in the world” with one in fifteen Black adults currently
incarcerated.

Attorney Coard encouraged the audience to “be at the forefront of making change” and to join or
donate to the movement at www.prisonactivists.org and www.sentencingproject.org.

The Cheltenham Area Branch of the National Association of Colored People serves Cheltenham,
Jenkintown, Springfield, Plymouth Meeting and Whitemarsh. For more information on how to
participate in the Cheltenham NAACP, visit the website at www.cheltenhamnaacp.com, email
Branch President Harvey L. Crudup at cheltnaacp@aol.com or call 215-576-832.