Tag Archives: prison industrial complex

What Are Rappers Really Saying About The Police?

By Guest Contributor Lisa Wade, PhD; originally published at Sociological Images

Hip-hop music is frequently described as violent and anti-law enforcement, with the implication that its artists glorify criminality.  A new content analysis subtitled “Hip-Hop Artists’ Perceptions of Criminal Justice“, by criminologists Kevin Steinmetz and Howard Henderson, challenge this conclusion.

After an analysis of a random sample of hip-hop songs released on platinum-selling albums between 2000 and 2010, Steinmetz and Henderson concluded that the main law enforcement-related themes in hip-hop are not pleasure and pride in aggressive and criminal acts, but the unfairness of the criminal justice system and the powerlessness felt by those targeted by it.

Lyrics about law enforcement, for example, frequently portrayed cops as predators exercising an illegitimate power.  Imprisonment, likewise, was blamed for weakening familial and community relationships and described a modern method of oppression.

 

 

Their analysis refutes the idea that hip-hop performers are embracing negative stereotypes of African American men in order to sell albums.  Instead, it suggests that the genre retains the politicized messages that it was born with.

Steinmetz and Henderson offer Tupac’s “Crooked Nigga Too” (2004) as an example of a rap that emphasizes how urban Black men are treated unfairly by police.

Yo, why I got beef with police?
Ain’t that a bitch that motherfuckers got a beef with me
They make it hard for me to sleep
I wake up at the slightest peep, and my sheets are three feet deep.

The authors explain:

Police action perceived as hostile and unfair engenders an equally hostile and indignant response from Tupac, indicating a tremendous amount of disrespect for the police.

Likewise, Jay-Z, in “Pray” (2007), raps about cops who keep drugs confiscated from a dealer, emphasizing a “power dynamic in which the dealer was unfairly taken advantage of but was unable to seek redress”:

The same BM [‘‘big mover’’—a drug dealer] is pulled over by the boys dressed blue
they had their guns drawn screaming, “just move or is there something else you suggest we can do?”
He made his way to the trunk
opened it like, “huh?”
A treasure chest was removed
cops said he’ll be back next monthwhat we call corrupt, he calls payin’ dues

Henderson offers Jay-Z’s “Minority Report” as a great overall example:

Of course, the rappers — in their collective wisdom — are absolutely correct to suspect that the treatment that their communities receive from the police, corrections, and courts are unfair.  African Americans are routinely targeted by police (see the examples of New York City and Toronto), even though racial profiling doesn’t workBlacks are are more likely to be arrested and sentenced than Whites, regardless of actual crime rates; schools and juvenile detention systems are increasingly intertwined in inner citiesimprisonment tears families apart, disproportionately harming families of color; and even Black children don’t trust the police.

Steinmetz and Henderson conclude:

We actually found that the overwhelming message in hip-hop wasn’t that the rappers disliked the idea of justice, but they disliked the way it was being implemented.

These communities, then, have a strong sense of justice…rooted in the sense that they’re not getting any.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter andFacebook.

Race, Rehabilitation, And The Private Prison Industry

Image by x1klima, via Flickr Creative Commons.

By Lisa Wade, PhD, cross-posted from Sociological Images

In 1984 the U.S. began its ongoing experiment with private prisons. Between 1990 and 2009, the inmate population of private prisons grew by 1,664%  (source). Today approximately 130,000 people are incarcerated by for-profit companies.  In 2010, annual revenues for two largest companies — Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group — were nearly $3 billion.

Companies that house prisoners for profit have a perverse incentive to increase the prison population by passing more laws, policing more heavily, sentencing more harshly, and denying parole.  Likewise, there’s no motivation to rehabilitate prisoners; doing so is expensive, cuts into their profits, and decreases the likelihood that any individual will be back in the prison system.  Accordingly, state prisons are much more likely than private prisons to offer programs that help prisoners: psychological interventions, drug and alcohol counseling, coursework towards high school or college diplomas, job training, etc.

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On Teachers Calling Kids “Future Criminals” and the School to Prison Pipeline

by Latoya Peterson

School to Prison Pipeline

A first grade teacher in Paterson, New Jersey was recently put on administrative leave after she took to the internet to vent her frustrations about work. According to NBC New York, the teacher was suspended for allegedly making Facebook comments that her six-year-old students are “future criminals” and referring to herself as a “warden,” according to school officials.”

Much of the handwringing over at Jezebel concerned the fate of the poor, poor teacher who probably just had a bad day. At Jezebel, Margaret Hartmann concludes her piece by saying:

It’s horrible to hear about an adult disrespecting the children in her care, but it also casts a bad light on teachers, who for the most part, got into the profession because they want to help children succeed. But that’s not news — that’s their job, and they do it every single day.

Are teachers definitely our undersung heroes? Yes.  Do they often work long hours at thankless tasks in order to make their children’s lives better?  Oh yes.

But do all teachers treat all children the same? No, no, no.

My radar pinged when I heard the term criminals employed, so I checked the demographics of Paterson.  And my suspicions were borne out.  According to Neighborhood Scout:

Paterson is a blue-collar town, with 35.4% of people working in blue-collar occupations, while the average in America is just 24.7%. Overall, Paterson is a city of sales and office workers, service providers, and production and manufacturing workers. There are especially a lot of people living in Paterson who work in office and administrative support jobs (18.20%), sales jobs (9.45%), and building maintenance and grounds keeping (6.25%).

The population of Paterson has a very low overall level of education: only 8.19% of people over 25 hold a 4-year college degree or higher.

The per capita income in Paterson in 2000 was $13,257, which is low income relative to New Jersey and the nation. This equates to an annual income of $53,028 for a family of four.

Paterson is an extremely ethnically-diverse city. The people who call Paterson home come from a variety of different races and ancestries. People of Hispanic or Latino origin are the most prevalent group in Paterson, accounting for 50.17% of the city’s residents (people of Hispanic or Latino origin can be of any race). The most prevalent race in Paterson is White, followed by Asian. Important ancestries of people in Paterson include Italian and Jamaican.

Paterson also has a high percentage of its population that was born in another country: 32.79%.

The most common language spoken in Paterson is Spanish. Some people also speak English.

But that’s just a coincidence, right? Continue reading