What was supposed to be commentary on New Jersey’s racial disparity in prison has morphed into a broader look at three recent articles put out by the Patch. The three pieces deal with defunding police, investing in community violence intervention programs, and prison racial disparity in New Jersey. The key thing that’s missing when talking about these subjects is the role New Jersey’s gun control laws plays and how the laws were designed to keep firearms out of the hands of black citizens.
In discussing the racial disparity in prison populations, we have the following:
New Jersey leads the country with the largest racial disparity in its incarceration rates, according to a report released this month from the research and advocacy group, the Sentencing Project.
New Jersey incarcerates Black people 12.5 times more than white people, making it the largest disparity in the country. The report attests some of the large disparity not only to New Jersey’s high rate of incarceration of Black people, but also to the low rate of incarceration of white people.
The report reads in part:
“In New Jersey, for example, Blacks are incarcerated at a rate over twelve times that of whites even though the Black incarceration rate is 19% below the national average. The high rate of Black/white racial disparity in New Jersey reflects a particularly low incarceration of whites: 81 per 100,000, or nearly one-third the national average.”
The recent report shows little to no change from a similar 2016 report that, again, found New Jersey had the highest racial disparity in incarceration rates. This year’s report notes that in response to the 2016 report, the New Jersey state legislature quickly adopted “racial impact” legislation to mitigate the identified disparate impact of proposed crime legislation on Black and Latinx individuals going forward. Since the bill’s passage two years ago, however, only one racial impact statement has ever accompanied a bill, according to media reports.
What this is telling us in part is that the initiatives put forward post 2016 essentially have not helped the problem. Which should cause New Jersey’s citizens to call into question more “solutions” that come from the same camp, as they’ll too probably be ineffectual. Drawing directly from the report, we have some other compelling information:
The rise in incarceration that has come to be known as mass incarceration began in the early 1970s and is widely attributed to three major eras of policymaking, all of which had a disparate impact on people of color, especially African Americans. Until 1986, a series of policies was enacted to expand the use of imprisonment for a variety of felonies. After this point, the focus moved to greater levels of imprisonment for drug and sex offenses.
What were the “variety of felonies” being used to facilitate such imprisonment? We’re left to guess at that, as nothing was specifically outlined. Pay attention to that timeline too. That “early 70’s” period noted. What’s perhaps meaningful is the fact that “guns” or “firearms” are not mentioned once in the cited report. It’s as if there has been zero effect on the racial disparity and or imprisonment of black and brown persons due to firearm laws/infractions. Are we to believe that firearms have not been involved in any of these incarceration incidents?
The public masters in New Jersey do talk an awful lot about “gun violence” though.
That’s okay, because the piece on defunding the police cites another report which we’ll take a look at in a minute.
After the murder of George Floyd, protests against police brutality and racial injustice emerged in all 50 states and around the world. At the same time, police budgets received increased scrutiny from the public.
A new report from the New Jersey Policy Perspective examines the cost of policing versus Health and Human Services in the Garden State. The think tank’s report suggests reducing police budgets and investing funds elsewhere.
New Jersey is coming to this late in the game. The defund the police movement already proved to be an abysmal failure countrywide. What the report does do though is give us some important history to help better understand another piece of the puzzle.
Due, in part, to the brutal enforcement of segregation laws in the South, millions of Black residents moved from Southern states to Northern states between 1916 and 1970, a population shift known as the Great Migration.[xiv] People who migrated, however, would come to find that segregation and systemic racial violence were also woven into the fabric of Northern states. Contrary to popular belief, segregation began in Northern abolitionist states with the country’s first racially separate railcar operating in 1838.[xv]
In Northern states, police departments did not develop as a response to crime but, rather, “disorder.”[xvi] Governments tasked police with the surveillance and control of disenfranchised people: poor workers, immigrants, and Black people.[xvii] Again, police were encouraged to use force against these disenfranchised communities, and police violence was commonplace in the early 1900s.
In the summer of 1967, residents of Newark rebelled after witnessing white police officers brutally attack John Smith, a Black cab driver.[xx] While this instance of racial violence was a breaking point for many, the rebellion emerged also in response to rising tensions over “urban renewal” policies that sought to raze and redevelop neighborhoods without input from Black residents as well as and the ongoing abuse and killing of Black people by police.
The Civil Rights movement brought inequities faced by Black and brown people to the forefront of public consciousness and won major legislative battles in the 1960s, namely the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. However, these wins did not prevent policymaking that criminalized and otherwise harmed Black and brown communities.
Looking at this long history, things seemed to come to a head in the mid to late 60’s/early 70’s. What else happened in that time frame in New Jersey? New Jersey implemented some gun control laws. Those laws, had everything to do with what’s discussed above. From Burton v. Sills, a case challenging New Jersey’s laws, decided in December of 1968, the following is stated in the opinion:
New Jersey’s Gun Control Law is highly purposed and conscientiously designed toward preventing criminal and other unfit elements from acquiring firearms while enabling the fit elements of society to obtain them with minimal burdens and inconveniences. The plaintiffs themselves admit the need for some “firearms legislation” and, in the concluding paragraph of their brief, they explicitly acknowledge their recognition of “the problems created by the availability of handguns to juveniles, criminals, and irresponsible persons through mail order purchases.” It is indeed difficult to understand why their recognition does not quickly carry over into the equally serious and perhaps greater problems created through the free availability by direct purchase of pistols, rifles and other types of firearms. The plaintiffs predict that New Jersey’s Law will not achieve its purpose but are unwilling to await the actual results of its operation over a reasonable period of time. They suggest deficiencies in the Law but instead of gearing their attack towards elimination of the deficiencies and the strengthening of the Law, they apparently would scrap the entire regulatory program. They complain about administrative delays which may already have been eliminated and, in any event, may hereafter readily be dealt with administratively. And they express their resentment against the statutory requirements such as fingerprinting, though fingerprinting is now customary for identification purposes in noncriminal fields and does not carry any “odium of bygone days.” 99 N.J. Super., at 461.
Not much has changed since 1968. The process in New Jersey is still wrought with “administrative delays” etc. Who were the “unfit elements” versus the “fit elements of society” mentioned? Connect the dots. The laws in New Jersey are blatantly racist and were put into effect in order to keep firearms out of the hands of minorities.
Panning out and looking at the situation from a 30,000 foot view, one does not have to be a rocket scientist to see what else has gone on. The facts are that gun laws are also disproportionately applied against persons of color. For the studies or the state to admit anything firearm related in discussing incarceration rates and or arrests would be to admit to this truth. Not only would the fact become nearly cemented by those that wish to keep control, they’d also be admitting the failures of their continued war on civil liberties.
The situation (in reporting/the study) is muddier than that, as the whole entire alleged birth of any type of police force was due to racial tensions.
Most modern police departments can trace their roots directly to slave patrols, which were organized, government-sanctioned groups of armed men who monitored and, by use of violence, regulated the activity of people who were enslaved. Indeed, historians describe slave patrols as the first publicly funded police departments in the South.[vii]
After the end of the Civil War, slave patrols evolved into police departments, carrying over many aspects of the patrol, including the systematic surveillance of Black communities.[xii] In the years that followed slavery, the primary role of police departments was to enforce Black Codes, an extension of the slave codes, and Jim Crow segregation laws, both of which were designed to deny Black residents equal rights and maintain the de facto structure of slavery.[xiii]
So we’re to believe that our police forces were only born out of the necessity of keeping after the slave population? That’s it? Everything police began in order to terrorize the slaves and subsequently enforce Jim Crow laws?
Now that we know all that, it’s obvious the police should be defunded while grant money is doled out to different New Jersey programs and persons applying for such from the COVID relief funds.
New Jersey officials are hoping that the state’s largest-ever investment in community-based violence intervention programs will make a big difference for crime victims – and stop future tragedies from happening.
On Thursday, Acting Attorney General Andrew Bruck announced that the Department of Law and Public Safety will be committing $12 million in grant funding to reduce gun violence and support crime victims across the state.
That funding includes $10 million to support Community-Based Violence Intervention (CBVI) programs in New Jersey: the state’s largest-ever investment.
Community-Based Violence Intervention programs have proved to be effective through the years. Getting at actual root causes and looking at casual factors would help in understanding any potential criminal behavior. The question though is this what COVID relief funds should be used for? Let’s be honest, New Jersey had a crime problem prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Everything’s just falling into place for New Jersey and their big plans. I’d almost believe everything that’s being reported by the Patch if I could not see the bias and slant in nearly all their reporting.
According to Bruck’s office, the money will help “high-risk victims of crime” who face threats within their community and need to relocate – especially those who have been forced to move because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Funding for this program will be used to provide emergency housing services in two purpose areas. The first includes $1 million for a single entity to provide statewide emergency housing services specifically to victims of domestic violence. The second purpose area includes $1 million for applicants to provide COVID-19 emergency housing for all other victims of violence including sexual assault, human trafficking and gun violence, with individual grant awards up to $50,000.”
Alright, so those portions of the funds have very little to do with so-called “gun violence”. But they are “doing something.” Most of the people “forced to move” because of the pandemic were probably moving out of state to a jurisdiction that did not keep everyone locked down, masked up, and hang the threat of vaccination mandates over everyone’s heads.
The talking heads, policymakers, and think-tanks aught to come to terms with some harsh realities.
As stated before, the gun control laws that are on the books have racist origins. For any of these groups to be crying foul about anything race related and the disparity in prison populations, they need to address the fact that the gun laws also contribute to the cited problems.
The laws are disproportionately applied against persons of color, which will also contribute to the situation.
Less gun control laws will amount to less arrests, overall. With more permissive laws in the the state, which depending on the outcome of NYSRPA v. Bruen, the state may HAVE to return rights back to the people, the ability for the law abiding to be armed may go up. A larger portion of the potential prey in the criminal equation that’s armed will cut back on criminal activity. Crooks don’t like it when the people they terrorize shoot back.
To the progressives in New Jersey, this is 100% a win-win. Less crime. Less arrests. And more equality or equity or whatever term we’re supposed to be using today. Pick your poison.
The war on drugs proved to be a failure…when will the anti-freedom caucus realize the same on the war against the Second Amendment? Like getting to the center of that Tootise Pop, the world may never know. The answers are out there though, they just need to be willing to give up some of that control.