Sorry I haven’t posted a picture or blogged this week, but I’ve been training for my new job and have been getting mangled by allergies.
Today, while I was driving my roommate around on errands, I came across a protest group in front of the Downtown Provo, UT Well Fargo. This interested me since I figured all the fun protest action this week would be up in Salt Lake City during the semi-annual LDS (Mormon) General Conference. The Utah Valley University Revolutionary Students Union protest group of about twenty-five people were protesting Wells Fargo’s investment and loan practices benefiting the commercial-prison system here in Utah and Nation-Wide. In general, I support what they are doing. I think the commercial prison system is ridiculous and second I think there are far too many people incarcerated in the United States all together.
I also love the idea of free speech and debate. Protest is awesome especially when the cause is good.
I only have two criticisms for the protest group:
1) I spoke to three very nice people and they helped refine and frame the protest argument. One of the points two of them made was that Latinos were the most incarcerated demographic incarcerated in the United States. I conceded to them that might be right for California, but that is not the same nation wide. I tried to tell them that the most incarcerated group per-capita were Blacks. These three guys were adamant about their facts, however. This is fine of course when you are right, but bad when you are wrong.
According to the National Institute of Justice, the largest demographic group per-capita is Black Men ages 20-34 at 1:9 where Latino Men are 1:36 and Latino Women are 1:297. The Center for American Progress states the following about incarceration in the United States:
- While people of color make up about 30 percent of the United States’ population, they account for 60 percent of those imprisoned.
- According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one in three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime.
- Students of color face harsher punishments in school than their white peers, leading to a higher number of youth of color incarcerated.
- According to recent data by the Department of Education, African American students are arrested far more often than their white classmates.
- African American youth have higher rates of juvenile incarceration and are more likely to be sentenced to adult prison.
- As the number of women incarcerated has increased by 800 percent over the last three decades, women of color have been disproportionately represented.
- The war on drugs has been waged primarily in communities of color where people of color are more likely to receive higher offenses.
- Once convicted, black offenders receive longer sentences compared to white offenders.
- Voter laws that prohibit people with felony convictions to vote disproportionately impact men of color.
- Studies have shown that people of color face disparities in wage trajectory following release from prison.
2) While I absolutely agree with condemnation of the Prison Industrial Complex, I think protesting, in this case, is a waste of time. I think a better utilization of time an energy would have been community activism dealing with the causes of incarceration, like the misguided War on Drugs and discriminatory incarceration practices. Many of the above ten points show areas where community activism would be very effective. Activists can work to change government policies that regulate education, sentencing, community policing, voter rights and employment opportunities for released prisoners.
I did go inside the Wells Fargo and spoke to some of the employees. They were interested in the protest, but for the most part thought the protesters would get more done if they went up to Salt Lake to the main branch or even better to the company headquarters in Sacramento, California. The employees did get a letter from the home office about what to say about the protesters, but I’ve known some of these guys for years since I’ve been doing most of my Wells Fargo banking from this location. The employees were open with their feelings. Three of the tellers were Latinos and their opinion was that the best thing for Latinos to do was to simply not go to jail, get and keep jobs, buy a home and get an education.Personally, I despise Wells Fargo, but I do need a National Bank for when I travel coupled with the local credit union I use.
Still, I am glad, these protesters were out working on issues they think are important. Free speech is one of the greatest benefits we as Americans have. I just wish these guys were better informed (maybe the other protesters were) and I wish they were more interest in community activism instead of direct protest.Please Read:
- Activist Angela Davis: Education Is Critical for Prison Reform
- Education and Incarceration