May 7, 2013
Voting for Justice
Today is an Election Day in my community. Election Day is something I usually take very seriously. I sincerely believe in using my right to vote as a means of expressing my beliefs, telling public officials how I feel. If I don't vote, I am sending a silent message of acceptance for the status quo. Not voting, to me, is a shame. It means giving up my right to complain about anything after Election Day, because I didn't use my voice in my vote--where it really can make a difference.
But today...I just don't know if I can vote. I see both sides of the issue and can't figure out which side is the one I most believe in; or even if I have consider all the sides at all--because I think this is not just a two-sided issue.
Today, my community is voting for the second time on whether or not to build a new Justice Center. More office space, a modern courtroom, and more jail cells. It's that last part that gets me.
Right now our jails are overcrowded. We are spending lots and lots of money to ship our prisoners to other counties' jails. We could save a lot if we expanded the jail to keep our prisoners here. But the fact of the matter is, that my community is like almost every other in the U.S.A.: a disproportionate number of our prisoners are Black men. Young, black men. And I don't believe that we need more cells to hold those young men. I believe we need more programs to help them: job training programs, more affordable housing, a higher wage.
Building more cells might save the county money. Maybe a lot of money. If there was a guarantee that the money saved would be invested into a program that works to prevent the arrest and re-arrest of the young Black men in my community, I would vote yes. But if that money is not invested in anything but building more cells for prisoners, I can't help but think that my community plans to fill them up.