Jay - Z Bails Fathers Out of Jail on Father's Day: Is the prison industrial complex the real reason behind absent black fathers?

By: Alexis Alex

For some, Father’s Day is a special day meant for celebrating and honoring their fathers. And for others, it can be a sad day if their father is not around. But, thanks to Jay – Z, many fathers who were behind bars will be coming home this Father’s Day.

 Kalief Browder, photo via  Affinity Magazine

Kalief Browder, photo via Affinity Magazine

By bailing black fathers out, Jay Z is hoping to bring light to the injustices of the criminal justice system and the bail bond industry. In a letter he penned to TIME magazine, Jay - Z states he became “obsessed with the injustice of the bail bond industry” after helping produce the Kalief Browder docuseries that premiered earlier this year. For those who don’t know, Kalief Browder was a young black male who was arrested at the age of 16 for allegedly stealing a backpack. Because Kalief’s family was too poor to post bond, Kalief spent three years on Rikers Island awaiting trial. He spent most of time in solitary confinement which mentally destroyed him and caused irreversible damage, and just two years after his release, Browder committed suicide at the age of 22. Unfortunately, Kalief’s story is one that happens often in the prison system, but is silenced.

 Jay Z explains this phenomenon, “When black and brown people are over-policed and arrested and accused of crimes at higher rates than others, and then forced to pay for their freedom before they ever see trial, big bail companies prosper.“ Every year, the US spends about $9 billion dollars incarcerating people who have not been convicted of a crime, and most of these people are black and brown. Currently, over 400,000 people in America, convicted of no crime, are currently in jail because they cannot afford to post bond. This proves that poverty itself is a crime in America, and if you can’t afford to beat the system, it beats you.

Also, the fact that Jay – Z is specifically bailing out black fathers, opens up an important conversation about the absence of black fathers in the community. It is not a secret that many black fathers are absent from their families, but why? There are often discussions about why so many black children do not have fathers in their lives and the narrative that has developed is that black men are dead beat dads.  But,  there is one explanation that is often overlooked. Many black fathers are not present, not because they are dead beats, but because they are stuck in jail. 1 in 3 black men are expected to go to jail in their lifetime, and although black men makeup about 6% of the population, they makeup about 40% of the prison population. These statistics show it is obvious black men are being targeted by the criminal justice system. Legislation like the War on Drugs that started back in the 80’s and the 1994 Crime Bill were both instrumental in the mass incarceration of black men. The War on Drugs heavily criminalized crack cocaine, a drug prevalent in inner city communities. As a result, blacks were 75 – 90% of the drug offenders sent to prison during that era. And the Crime Bill of 1994 passed by Bill Clinton served its purpose to keep black people in jail, implementing laws such as mandatory minimums, three strikes you’re out, and truth in sentencing. These laws have been destroying black families and erasing black fathers from their homes for decades. If black men continue to be incarcerated at alarming rates, this will lead to lesser children without their father in their lives, which makes them more likely to end up in jail themselves, constructing a never – ending cycle. Instead of blaming black men for their absence, it is time to bring real attention to this issue and fight to end mass incarceration and the targeting of black men.

Jay –Z is moving in the right direction by bringing some fathers back to their families and using his celebrity to bring light to the injustices in the criminal justice system. This should be the new “blueprint” for other celebrities moving forward when looking for ways to give back to the community and help the cause. We see you, Jay Z! 

Kayla PasacretaComment