By Armando Machado Jr.
On April 6, Lasell hosted Dr. Phillipe Copeland, Clinical Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work at Boston University and specialist in the social justice field, for a presentation on mass incarceration in de Witt Hall. Copeland’s discussion focused on mass incarceration’s effects on the country, mainly in the minority community.
Copeland shared statistics on the inequalities that our legal system presents to people of color. According to the Department of Justice, “Approximately 12–13 percent of the American population is African-American, but they make up 35 percent of jail inmates, and 37 percent of prison inmates of the 2.2 million male inmates as of 2014,” said Copeland.
Copeland shared a presentation with a number of graphics, one of which had a Frederick Douglass quote that read, “The American people have this to learn: that where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither person nor property is safe.”
One of Copeland’s main messages was that while the United States has come a long way since the days of slavery and Jim Crow, the country has a long way to go to reach equality. He said that throughout America’s history “black people have been used to improve the lives of people in positions of power.” Copeland also spoke about America’s history of slavery. “Certainly parts of mass incarceration directly impact black people. There’s a straight line from slavery to what is happening now…it couldn’t be straighter,” he said.