I have been studying criminal justice for more than 10 years. In that time, there are statistics that still make me pause every time I hear them. The United States holds 5 percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of its prisoners. Today, more than 2.3 million individuals are incarcerated in the United States. In 1970, there were only 200,000. One in three black men will go to prison in their lifetime; for black men without a high school diploma, the likelihood is one in two. Over half of all inmates released from prison will return within three years.
Many people believe that these statistics are a reflection of the crime trends that exist in the United States. However, I believe that these statistics reflect a system that is badly broken. I teach because I want to draw students’ attention to the problems in our criminal justice system. I want to challenge their views on crime and how to address it. I want them to recognize that how a society treats its ‘criminals’ says as much about that society as it does about those who commit crime. I teach because I want students to realize the power they have to make a difference, to use the knowledge that they have learned to work toward creating a system that is fair, just and humane, instead of simply perpetuating the status quo.