Mass Incarceration…the New Slavery in America

Leonard Lovett, Ph. D

For decades I have howled about our criminal justice system that is truncated, horrific, fraught with incivility and broken. Human beings are warehoused like animals not just for months, often for decades. It is reminiscent of human cargo in the baracoon of slave vessels on their horrific journey during the Trans-Atlantic diaspora from the shores of Africa. Mass incarceration is indeed the new slavery.  It is equally as bad as the Soviet Union’s gulag an institution that punished ideas, while we are geared to punish conditions.

The prison industrial complex now has a slot on Wall Street built around capital gains. Inmates work for low wages which constitutes another form of economic exploitation.  Inmates must hire legal counsel for parole hearings and anything regarding their welfare. The suicide rate for inmates has increased exponentially due to futility and the loss of personhood.

Over four decades ago I spent one year as a Research fellow at Bryn Mawr Graduate School of Social Research in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania with a focus on social theory and community organization. The widow of the late Dr. Ira Reid, sociologist and friend of Dr. WEB Dubois invited me via a mutual friend to come and take whatever I wanted from his library. Dr. Reid had participated in early research on lynching in America. My interest in the criminal justice system in this nation has never waned.

I held a pastorate in Haverford, Pennsylvania (Memorial Church of God in Christ-(the Gathering) while simultaneously working as a Coordinator for the Health and Welfare Council Neighborhood Youth Corps. My field experience with gang members began. Our task was to find troubled youth, link them with a job to institutions in the Philadelphia metropolitan area and motivate them to finish High School. Under the auspices of the Labor Department the program proved successful. Multiple stories evolved from this experiment as I moved from theorist to practitioner with live hardened gang members. They would announce their leave time for 2:30 as (two dongs and a split).  Only God enabled me to make the adjustment. A few did not make it and returned to the street. Many more succeeded and finished school.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo ruled the streets as he walked with a billy club tucked inside his business suit. Race was used as a basis to abuse citizens. A 1996 federal consent decree was mandated as a result of corruption scandal where six officers pleaded guilty to  Civil Rights violations, obstruction of justice, robbery, filing false reports and other gross violations. A decade earlier police dropped a fire bomb on a residence killing eleven people who were part of a Black radical group, (MOVE), leaving 256 residents homeless under Black Mayor Wilson Good. Young people are waiting to be affirmed by a community that they trust will care deeply. The Gospel is social as well as individual.

It was during the seventies and eighties that the war on drugs was initiated via president Ronald Reagan and escalated into what has been avidly described by Michelle Alexander as the new normal by mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness in her best seller…The New Jim Crow. The current Trump administration with Attorney General Jim Session has begun to reinforce policies that promote mass incarceration especially for lesser educated Brown and Black people of color. Mass incarceration has now become the new normal.

Alexander constructs a formula for the New Slavery-incarceration. Stage 1- The Roundup- the Drug War is the vehicles where extraordinary numbers of Black males are swept into the system through unwarranted police raids on poor communities and are rewarded by monetary incentives to increase the numbers.

Stage 2- Formal Control- Easy convictions are achieved by pressuring persons arrested to plead guilty with promise of lesser charges. Once trapped the plea bargain chess-match begins. Drug offenders spend more time under formal control of the criminal justice system in this nation than drug offenders anywhere in the world. Stage 3-Final. The Period of Invisible Punishment. Once a released prison inmate is labeled a felon they are marked for life and will always be treated as a sub-class. It impacts everything they touch from employment to basic societal benefits. Unable to overcome these obstacles many individuals return to a life of crime.

The Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolished slavery with one exception that slavery remained appropriate as punishment for crime. Section 1. {Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction}. The convicted person embarks on a life of penal servitude to the state. All state prisons operate as independent entities and create their own system of rules.

Conclusion: Over three decades ago I sat in a court room in an adjacent upscale county in Southern California.  It was a case where a sexual predator was killed in self-defense. The all-white jury listened for several days and imposed a severe sentence on the victim, who was Black African-American. I was livid. It reinforced what was in my heart that justice for privileged whites means “just us.”

I followed the case and ministered to this family and watched several decades of this young man’s life eviscerated by a harsh criminal justice system that is poised against the victim solely on the basis of color. I want to protect the privacy of the young man who spent three decades in a vicious system predicated on the core principles of slavery. I call upon Pastors to talk with your youth and steer them away from a life wasted in a slave prison. In the tradition of our Lord we are bound to struggle against all forms of oppression…including a broken criminal justice system that clearly is biased on the basis of color. Together let’s set the captives free based on the mandate of our Lord in Luke 4: 18.

Follow me on The Agora @ www.theagora.net  “where truth is spoken and never compromised.”  Chief Editor, Leonard Lovett, Ph. D

 

 

 

41 comments

  • James A. Barnes on September 20, 2017 at 10:13 am said:

    Always enjoy your insights Dr. Lovett. You inspired me to pursue my Doctorate back in the 90s. You preached and conducted workshops for the late Bishop C.L. Sexton and the late M.W. Ritter in Brooklyn, NY. Look forward to the new COGIC manual when it is completed. God bless you Dr. Lovett

  • William Jarrett on July 19, 2017 at 10:39 pm said:

    I enjoyed the read! Repentance is the starting point and the Holy Spirit controlling the life of the believer is paramount because He produces the Love of God that sees a preciousness in the object loved and is willing to sacrifice oneself for others. Christ sacrificed His Life for us. Thank you for article.

  • Harry King on June 11, 2017 at 2:08 am said:

    Awesome blog..It’s time for God’s people to repent. 2 Chronicles 7:14 Or suffer death as Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11 concerning church.

  • Dr. Randy Short on March 1, 2017 at 1:50 pm said:

    ###For Immediate Release###

    Church of God-in-Christ (COGIC) presiding Bishop of America’s 5th largest church and oldest Pentecostal denomination Charles Edward Blake, after exhausting his means to evade facing the allegations of pedophilia made by excommunicated Rev. Dr. Earl Carter, Sr., has been summoned to appear in Orlando’s George C. Young Court on Wedesday March 8th, 2017. Blake unfairly dismissed Carter in 2014, and in the bitter fallout that followed the dirty laundry of the presiding bishop was aired by disgruntled parishioners and clergy alike. Carter refusing to quietly go away devoted a You Tube channel to discussing the corruption and sexual foibles and crimes of Blake and other COGIC bishops. Fearful of a real court battle, Blake who is called the “Preacher to the Stars” used his relationship with radio, television, and film stars including Stevie Wonder, Sam Jackson, Denzel Washington, Tom Joyner, Magic Johnson and T.D. Jakes to plant false stories about Carter having been successfully sued in court; thus, eliminating the threat of media exposure. Carter suffered considerable financial hardship as a result of Blake and the COGIC leadership tainting him as “personae non grata”. Unconstitutional attempts were made by Orlando authories to deny Carter’s freedom of speech. However, the Orlando court, upon learning of Carter’s connection to Atty. General Jeff Sessions, rescinded their contempt of court charge against the minister and gave him a trial date to present evidence demonstrating that Blake is a pedophile with a colorful private life–inclusive of homemade gay porn movies and homosexual affair with former Harvard University Dean of the Chapel the Rev. Dr. Peter Gomes. Blake is, in return, is expected to file claims agaisnt Carter for slander, defamation, and libel. Carter seeks to sue for $2,000,000 in damages. The David and Goliath struggle between Bishop Charles Blake and Rev. Dr. Earl Carter trial wll have a fateful effect on the over 10,000,000 COGIC members world-wide, and more allegations of fraud, abuse, rape, and child molestation are likely to issue forth. Dr. Carter, of Orlando Florida, is open and available for phone, skype, and in-studio interviews and can be reached at 407-437-0215.

    • Dr. Leonard Lovett on March 11, 2017 at 2:45 pm said:

      We must be vigilant in standing for justice and opposing the Empire when Caesar is going against the truth. When the price of vegetables and fruits sky rocket we will wish the President would have been more discerning before sending un-documented people back home like cattle and not like the created in God’s image. Scripture clearly admonishes and warns us to treat strangers in the land with compassion and kindness. America is under divine judgment. -Chief Editor, Dr. Leonard Lovett

  • Philip Turner on February 3, 2017 at 7:21 pm said:

    Dr. Lovett: Keep writing and preaching. Just read your “An Open Letter to the President to…make America Honorable Again”. What a prophetic masterpiece, and the message that needed to be delivered at the recent 2017 National Prayer Breakfast! Appreciate your eschatological declaration that “The Lamb will always overcome the lion in history.” The Saints have hope! The 45th POTUS called for the repeal of the Johnson Amendment at the 2017 National Prayer Breakfast. What are your thoughts either negative or positive concerning such repeal?

    • Dr. Leonard Lovett on March 11, 2017 at 2:49 pm said:

      I agree with the wisdom of Proverbs…”the Kings heart is in the hand of the Lord and He turns it whatsoever way he will.” In the meantime we must be vigilant in opposing injustice anywhere before it leapfrogs everywhere.

  • Roger Woody on January 31, 2017 at 10:57 pm said:

    I want to thank you Dr. Lovett for your insight in this ongoing, traditional incline of pride and greed in the church today. So my question to you is, when will the leadership humble themselves, repent, and be delivered to give God the glory?

    • Dr. Leonard Lovett on March 11, 2017 at 3:05 pm said:

      I have no mirror into the future that forecast when will leaders change. However, I strongly recommend that you read and follow the prophetic challenges being set forth by Christena Cleveland, the great granddaughter of the late Evangelist Bishop EE Cleveland. Dr. Cleveland is a Social Psychologist at Duke who guides the Center for Reconciliation. Christina views the current actions of this new administration as the last gasp for white folk who are now in a minority due to shifting demographics by Blacks, Browns and others. According to Jesus we are the only folk on the planet whole in a paradoxical relationship with our Lord…We “win by losing and lose by winning.”

  • Philip Turner on November 21, 2016 at 7:04 pm said:

    Dr. Lovett: Thank-you for your biblical exegetical and hermeneutical insigt pertaining to the current state of affairs in the COGIC. What are your biblical insights of the recent election of the current General Board and officers?

  • Philip Turner on November 21, 2016 at 7:00 pm said:

    Dr. Lovett: many thanks for your insight and scriptural exegesis and hermenuetics on the the current leadership of COGIC. Now that you are utilizing themeans of the internet to bring transparency of discussion regarding COGIC, what are your comments pertaining to the post-election of the General Board and officers of COGIC?

  • Keith jackson on November 9, 2016 at 8:53 pm said:

    Hello Dr. Lovett, thankyou for this truth platform! I pray for you to continually speak and write about the pure truth. Now days it appears previlant that standards in our churches has be lowered to compromise with the world

  • Bishop Gerald Glenn on October 13, 2016 at 9:03 am said:

    Once again Dr.Lovett in a contemporary fashion has spoken in prophetic parlance. He has been called for this time to “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.” The great tragedy is that his prophetic utterance may be drowned out by those individuals threatened by his public declaration and his fearless stand for “speaking truth to power.” What would God do in our church if the “king and all the king’s men” heeded these prophetic truths in the fashion of Jehu and do as Jehoshaphat did, “bring the people back to God?”

  • Stephen York on September 14, 2016 at 3:38 pm said:

    Dr. Lovett,

    I am just now becoming acquainted with your work. I am grateful for what I have discovered and read thus far.

    I am currently working on my doctoral dissertation at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School on the influence of the Sanctified Church on James Baldwin’s Life and Thought. (I am aware that you graduated from Crozer when it was still in Chester, PA).

    As a 62-year old, white, third generation Pentecostal reared in the holiness church who preaches in many denominational settings, including COGIC, I am grateful for your intelligent and informative insights.

    I am looking to find your book, CROCKPOT PREACHING.

    With warm regards,

    Stephen York
    Stonington, Maine

  • Rev. Robert E.C. Jones, Jr., M.A., M.Div. on September 5, 2016 at 10:03 pm said:

    Dr. Lovett,
    Thank you for sharing your perspective on the matters of racial reconciliation at the O. T. Jones Leadership Institute, 96th Holy Convocation, Pennsylania Commonwealth Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction this past week. You presented uncanning truths that are all to often overshadowed by our mental disconnects–whether it is because we are uninformed or because we simply choose to ignor realities of the past. You revived our realities. There was a profound appreciation, and indeed, an astute need to help us all recognize that our American history cannot be buried nor forgotten. And, while you did not use these exact words, you made it clear that we can only understand our future by being in touch with our past! A notable point. May God’s grace, mercy, and peace be forever yours.

  • Sherry Sherrod DuPree on July 5, 2016 at 3:49 pm said:

    Greetings Dr. Lovett.

    Thank you for introducing me to your blog…this has made my day…I am going to get a cup of tea and enjoy reading these gems of insight into our church and culture. I am thanking you in advance for interviewing Bishop Mack E. Jonas which includes his testimony from the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles. Grace to you as you continue sharing history of the Pentecostal movement.

    Best Regards,
    Sherry

  • Gregory Ballard on May 13, 2016 at 5:36 pm said:

    This is precisely why you are my Mentor and Friend! A POWERFUL warning & Word from a Prophet In Spirit Of Elijah! Gregory Ballard

  • Kim Fersner on March 25, 2016 at 5:30 am said:

    Dr. Lovett thank you for your thought provoking writings. I enjoy reading as I gain spiritual and natural insite. Love you, always have and will always. Shalom Kim Leatherbury Fersner

  • Lee Perkins on December 15, 2015 at 9:04 am said:

    I believe you are right on target, Dr. Lovett. We need age limitations for pastors, bishops, and supervisors. I believe somewhere in 70-75 range should be mandatory retirement age. Such a requirement would almost force churches and jurisdictions to think about and plan for seriously retirement benefits (pension and insurance), which I believe is the biggest obstacle for many who don’t want to retire. Many of our people do not save or invest for retirement. So, in a sense, they must continue to stay in position in order receive an income.

  • Pastor Michael Mancha on October 20, 2015 at 11:33 am said:

    Dr. Lovett,

    Enjoyed talking and laughing with you as we discussed some of the most critical global and denominational issues of our time at Pastor Logans wonderful Founders Day reception Sunday October 18th.

    May the Lord continue to strengthen you and give you favor as you go where the Lord leads. Thank you for sharing your sanctified, experienced, and informative perspectives. God bless you.

    • Leonard lovett on October 21, 2015 at 1:21 am said:

      Thanks for the encouraging word from you and your wife this past Sunday at the Antioch church festive feast at the home of the renowned Pastor Jonathan and Christine Logan in Peoria, Az. God is up to something in COGIC and you and yours will be an integral,part of the major shift. ” For such a time as this you have come into the Kingdom.” Your training at Claremont and your wife’s D.Min from Fuller can seriously be utilized in the great state of Arizona,
      Shalom,
      Leonard Lovett

  • Novena Robinson on October 13, 2015 at 12:36 am said:

    Dr. Lovett
    It was an honor meeting and a awesome seminar re: The purpose for the church. Once again you have knocked this one right out the park! Well done. I look forward to future readings. I am as well greatly inspired by your Revised book: CLOSE YOUR BACK DOOR as You Widen the Front Door of Your Church.
    Sis. Novena Robinson

    • Leonard lovett on October 21, 2015 at 12:58 am said:

      Hello Novena….thanks for the encouragement. I had a great time at Ephesians in Berkeley. Be steadfast and continue to focus on the purpose of the church. Remember you are at the beginning of the third quarter at Ephesians. Envision a glorious victory at the end of the fourth quarter.
      Shalom
      Leonard Lovett

  • Bishop Phillip H. Porter on October 12, 2015 at 2:15 pm said:

    What a joy it is to call you, ‘Friend’. Seeing that you yet possess “your burning, with your learning”, I’m encouraged that you have not lost your position on ‘The Wall’.
    With malice toward none, Love for All, Truth and wisdom of Scripture must always be spoken. With clarity may you continue to “Blow the Trumpet, in Zion. I do keep you in my fervent prayers.

    • Leonard lovett on October 21, 2015 at 1:01 am said:

      Bishop Porter…Imhave always admired your brilliant mind and a deep sense of integrity .
      Your wisdom is needed to guide us out of this morass. Thanks for the encouragement Keep the fire of God burning in Aurora and Montana
      Shalom

  • Barbara Banford on October 11, 2015 at 11:57 pm said:

    Dr. Lovett,

    Although I have never attended a national convocation the local can be a market place. Must agree at the church becoming the market place.

    Enjoyed your sermon — the ocntent and how it was presented.

    Barbara Banford
    Ephesian COGIC Berkeley CA

    • Leonard lovett on October 21, 2015 at 1:07 am said:

      Hello Barbara …you are the woman with an unwritten book within at the Ephesians Church in Berkeley. What great promise your church has for impacting the community where you reside. Remember God rewards faithfulness.
      Shalom

  • Frankie Loyd on September 27, 2015 at 2:55 am said:

    I’d love to be on the receiving end of your Blog. “Truth” is what I’m after as well, Dr. Lovett… and I thank you for all your input on things concerning the heart of GOD. Not many will STAND… May our LORD bless and keep you always!

    Take care!

    • Leonard lovett on October 21, 2015 at 1:12 am said:

      It is the truth that will free us ultimately. Thanks for the encouragement. You are among the 70,000 plus visitors from North America. Who has visited the The Agora blog. Several million from the global village has visited our blog based on our recorder.
      Shalom,
      Leonard Lovett

    • Leonard lovett on October 21, 2015 at 1:45 am said:

      Frankie Loyd Thanks for the encouragement during these trying times. We are in the developmental stage of the Blog/web. God has surprised us with the massive visitation to the site. I am more excited than ever to speak the truth in love to free the people.
      Pray for us.
      Shalom,
      Leonard Lovett

  • Pastor Nathaniel Goodson on August 3, 2015 at 5:31 pm said:

    Dr Lovett, as always your thoughts provoke feelings and emotions that are at things difficult to explain. I am grateful for your insightful and provocative writing on the purpose of the convocation. I have had some of the same thoughts many times both in my state convocation and at the national level. Thank you for expressing what many Of us did not have the courage to express.

    • Leonard lovett on October 21, 2015 at 1:28 am said:

      Pastor Nathaniel Goodson my son in the Gospel. Thanks for the great fellowship at Prayer Chapel Church in Upper Darby. I was so impressed with your maturity and coming of age as a pastor. Your attempt to build a relational church with a focus on the Millennials is novel for COGIC. Be as faithful in your ministry as your parents Deacon Nathaniel and Ruth Goodson. Thanks for the encouragement.
      Shalom,
      Leonard Lovett

  • romona williams on May 6, 2015 at 9:36 pm said:

    Me and my daughter had a awesome time today at ONE of our favorite eating place. Sitting across from the Dr.Lovett as people walk pass speaking to him with excitement. Well he was just a normal personal to talk with and have a little church.
    Not knowing who the Dr. Lovett was admittedly Dr. Lovett spoken with us like family.I enjoyed eating at our favorite restaurant today with a opportunity to talk about, school,church,race,work,cats raccoons,a skunk,and more. today confirmation from God! Peace and Love and that’s what the is made of.

  • J k Goodson on August 18, 2014 at 2:08 pm said:

    I think you for sharing and proving a voice for these challenging times I pray this nation that continues to allow the crooked face of racism to demean the very existence of humanity preachers leaders and the faith base community must come together and brake the chain of this demonic, that tears and foams at the mouth we must exercise and activate the authority of Jesus Christ There must be ‘ truth’ Dr MARTIN LUTHER KING AFFIRMS.
    PEACE IF POSSIBLE BUT TRUTH AT ANY RATE

    • Leonard lovett on October 21, 2015 at 1:37 am said:

      Pastor Jeffrey Goodson, my son in the Gospel, you do me proud with such a focus and determination. You will go far because of your committed intellect and great spirit. Your presence at The Gathering (Memorial COGIC) my first pastorate, was momentous. I can see young pastor Darren Miller going places with a little mentoring. The Heritage Celebration then second week in October was epic. Chosen Generation will get a hearing in Philadelphia.
      Shalom ,
      Leonard Lovett

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