"The mass incarceration of African American men may have made us safer, but it leaves us with generation after generation of broken families that are uneducated that have multiple barriers to employment," said Doe Fund founder and Republican mayoral candidate George McDonald this morning at a Crain's forum.
McDonald made those remarks during a forum featuring the Republican candidates for mayor this morning, in response to a question about income inequality in New York City, and what, if anything, he thought the city should do about it.
Glenn Martin, a vice president at the Fortune Society, which works on criminal reentry and alternatives to incarceration, said in response to McDonald's comment that he "gets it totally wrong when he suggests that 'The mass incarceration of African American men may have made us safer...'"
"In fact, the disproportionate impact of the criminal justice system on communities of color has been destructive and counterproductive, with little connection to crime rates," he wrote, in an email. "The major cause of prison growth in New York State is our failed war on drugs, and it has disproportionately impacted young men of color, although drug use and drug selling rates are similar across racial lines. In addition, recent research supports the fact that when you over incarcerate from specific communities, the law of diminishing returns applies and you ultimately experience little to no increase in public safety."
Here is McDonald's full answer, which was intended as an argument against current criminal-justice and economic policies.
"If the minimum wage were $50 an hour, it wouldn't make a bit of difference to a man or woman who didn't have a job. What we need in this city are jobs. I've spent 25 years creating jobs for people at the bottom of our society. I know about inequity. Nobody needs to tell me about inequity. I've been helping the men and women who have come out of our penal institutions. The mass incarceration of African American men may have made us safer, but it leaves us with generation after generation of broken families that are uneducated, that have multiple barriers to employment, and yet we overcome that. At the Doe Fund, we've always paid above the minimum wage, and our graduates get jobs that are over $11 an hour. Now why do we need government to create an artificial wage, control the wage, when the people are actually getting jobs above what they say the minimum wage is. We don't need government control."
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