Books and Breakfast: The New Jim Crow

Books and Breakfast

On Saturday February 27th, The Desmond Tutu Center, the Martin Luther King Community Center, and students from the Department of Political Science at Butler University, hosted our monthly Books and Breakfast event at the Martin Luther King Community Center. Eager community members joined us to discuss Michelle Alexander’s thought-provoking book, The New Jim Crow.

The root of our discussion focused on the systematic injustices that exist in United States and how these injustices are expressed in Indianapolis. Alexander noted that, “The United States now has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, dwarfing the rates of nearly every developed country, even surpassing those in highly repressive regimes like Russia, China, and Iran. In Germany, 93 people are in prison for every 100, 000 adults and children. In the United States, the rate is roughly eight times that, or 750 per 100,000.” Upon reading the statistics Alexander introduced, we decided to find out what the statistics were in Indianapolis. According to IndyCan.org, Indiana’s prison population grew 40% this decade, now the 17th highest incarceration rate on the globe. It was also stated that Indianapolis city officials are rushing ahead on a 35-year, half billion-dollar criminal justice center deal that adds 1,500 new jail beds.

The statistics were astounding and many guests felt compelled to become more involved in ending mass incarceration in Indiana. We identified multiple programs in Indianapolis who are actively dealing with effects of the incarceration system in our city. IndyCan’s “Jobs Not Jail” program invests in rehabilitation and job opportunities that keep people out of prison; Indianapolis Urban League’s “Skilled Workforce Development” program helps young adults with non-violent, non-sexual felony offenses transition back into the workforce; and the Urban League’s “Community Reintegration Program” for women, are examples of programs that currently exist in response to mass incarceration. The discourse at Books and Breakfast helped us all learn more about a little known problem in our own community. Leaving the event, we felt more equipped to face the issue of mass incarceration in our own communities.

The Books and Breakfast program has proven to be an invaluable platform for community discussion and growth. For one guest, the program has given her and her family the space to talk about important issues that directly affect them, but don’t feel comfortable discussing with work colleagues, for example. For others, the program helped specifically identify ways they could engage with the issue, such as supporting IndyCan’s Jobs Not Jails campaign.

Too often we can become distracted by updates on our favorite shows, driving our children to soccer practice, or keeping up with the everyday, to make space for meaningful conversations. Books and Breakfast offers a welcoming place for our community to come together and discuss social issues as introduced by thought-provoking literature.

Come to our next Books and Breakfast on April 2nd as we discuss Angela Davis: An Autobiography and experience the potential of a few powerful hours of conversation (and a warm breakfast) for yourself!   
Written by: Allison Troutner

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