Incarceration (1993)
Duration: 00:28:02

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Themes: Urban Challenges |

Guests: Ron Scott, Anthony McDuffie, Rev. Mikal Featchurs
Host : Cliff Russell
Producer : Tony Mottley

Summary: In this program, broadcast in 1993, host Cliff Russell talks with three studio guests about the ways in which black men tend to get singled out for police attention and the reasons why black men constitute a disproportionately large segment of America's prison population.

It begins with a clip from the movie Amos & Andrew, in which a wealthy black author, played by Samuel L. Jackson, moves to an affluent - and mostly white - New England town. He suddenly finds himself being shot at in his own home by white police who assume that because he is black he must be a burglar who is stealing the stereo equipment they see him with.

The film clip is a starting point for the discussion among panelists - Anthony McDuffie, the Rev. Mikal Featchurs, and former DBJ host Ron Scott - who relate their own encounters with the criminal justice system. McDuffie spent more than eight years in prison for manslaughter; Featchurs spent nearly three months in jail after he came to the defense of a friend who was being hit by his football coach; and Scott had recently settled a suit against the City of Detroit over his arrest for questioning a police officer's order to move along as he stood on a Greektown sidewalk in downtown Detroit.

McDuffie says the circumstances that led to his incarceration were influenced by inner city poverty - his inability to get a job or to find educational opportunities. Featchurs says he simply stood up for a friend who was being wrongly treated. And Scott says he challenged the police order to move because he was being singled out on account of his race; a nearby boisterous group of whites who were openly drinking beer on the street were not being asked to move on.

Russell cites federal Bureau of Justice statistics indicating that nationwide, 47 percent of the male prison inmates and 44 percent of the female prison inmates are black, about three times the percentage of blacks in the overall population. And several viewers call to relate their own experiences with what they considered inappropriate police attention connected to race.

One of the callers, Al Flood of the Wayne County Youth Home, says adults need to give greater attention to children early in life to help steer them away from conflicts with the law. "As teenagers, they don't think there's anything wrong with going to prison," Flood says. "They think it's a badge of honor."

Featchurs says African Americans have to do more to establish a responsible adult male presence in the community to help keep young people out of trouble. And Scott agrees. "We need to begin to cultivate at this point in our community a renewed struggle that begins to build self-esteem and consciousness at an early age to let them know that it's their community, they have to take care of it." he says.

The program does not offer a lot in terms of concrete solutions, but it is interesting for the illumination it provides to the scope and nature of a sensitive and longstanding concern of the African American community.

Related Production Materials held at MSU Libraries, Special Collections:
Box 1, File 25, Presumed Innocent [Prisons] - June 25, 1980
Box 7, File 14,Incarceration & the Black Community – February 22, 1993 – Show # 2417