Prison Reform and Race Equity

Too many people are incarcerated in the United States, particularly people of color. With nearly 1.5 million Americans in prison in 2012, the United States had the highest rate of incarceration in the world, far exceeding runners-up Russia and Rwanda. Despite comprising only 5 percent of the world’s population, the United States accounts for 25 percent of the world’s prisoners.

People of color have been disproportionately impacted by mass incarceration. While African-Americans and Latinos make up 15 and 17 percent of the population, respectively, they account for 38 and 23 percent of the prison population. Currently, African-American men have a 1 in 3 chance of going to prison in their lifetimes and Latino men have a 1 in 6 chance. These figures are overwhelming compared to the rate of incarceration for White men, who have an overall 1 in 17 chance of ever going to prison in their lifetime.

Racial inequality in incarceration is particularly evident for drug offenses. Currently, two-thirds of all people in prisons for drug offenses are either African American or Latino. According to Marc Mauer, Executive Director of the Sentencing Project, “These figures are far out of proportion to the degree that these groups use or sell drugs”. For example, a 2011 survey by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that White Americans use every category of illegal drugs at significantly higher rates than African-Americans or Latinos, yet they are far less likely to be convicted for drug offenses.

incarc rate by race & gender - webWar on Drugs & Race

Advocates for prison downsizing agree that mass incarceration and its disparate impact on communities of color can be directly attributed to policies stemming from the “War on Drugs.” In response to rising drug use in the 1980s, law enforcement and sentencing shifted dramatically to a punitive “hard on drugs” approach encouraging the imprisonment of low-level, non-violent drug users and sellers. Since then, the prison population has increased five-fold and incarceration for drug offenses has gone up 1,100 percent. With as few as 40,000 drug offenders serving prison sentences in 1980, this number has snowballed to over half a million in 20092. Lengths of prison terms have also dramatically increased.   In 1986, drug offenders spent an average of 22 months in federal prison; by 2004, sentences for similar crimes were nearly 3 times longer. In sum, over the past 40 years more and more people have been arrested and sent to prison, while fewer and fewer have been released or diverted.

prison jail drug web-1

Racial bias, discrimination, and unequal treatment under the law have also characterized the United State’s anti-drug crime agenda. As the ACLU’s Drug Policy Litigation Project explains, “By 1980, the link between minorities, drugs, and crime was firmly cemented in American rhetoric and anti-drug policy.” Evidence of discrepancies in the treatment of people of color in the criminal justice system has been well documented.

  • For example, federal sentencing guidelines from 1986 to 2010 held that 5 grams of crack cocaine, a substance more readily available in communities of color, was equivalent to 500 grams of powder cocaine, a substance consider chemically identical to crack cocaine but more readily available in White communities.
  • Further, the Sentencing Project cites that people of color are more likely to be targeted and racially profiled by law enforcement resulting in higher initial entry into the criminal justice system.
  • In addition, legal scholars Fishman and Schazenback found in 2012 that prosecutor are significantly more likely to pursue the maximum length of sentence for minority defendants, while judges are more likely to convict these defendants and agree to longer sentences.

Though not explicitly racist, many anti-drug policies and implementation strategies echo the American Legal System’s long legacy of racial injustice, continuing the American tradition of targeted injustice against people and communities of color.

Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Policy

The most notorious and influential policy resulting from the War on Drugs are federal mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders. Mandatory drug minimums are judicial guidelines requiring convicted drug offenders to serve an automatic and standard minimum length of time in prison- regardless of criminal context. These policies are rooted in the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, which first established the national drug schedule, followed by the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, which outlined punishments for federal crimes. The resulting mandatory minimums are “triggered” by specific quantities of eight controlled substances, including heroine, crack and powder cocaine, marijuana, with increasing minimums for large quantities and aggravating factors such as weapon procession or drug trafficking (mandatory minimums are also triggered from LSD, PCP, methamphetamine, and propanamide.). Unlike the majority of crimes in the U.S., for which judges determine sentence length on a case-by-case basis, mandatory minimums intentionally restrict judicial discretion7.

However, mandatory minimums were not considered controversial until the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act. With this omnibus drug bill, President Reagan significantly increased the length of minimum sentences while reducing the quantities of controlled substances that trigger the minimum. These guidelines form the basis for our current federal drug sentencing and require either a five or ten-year sentence without parole for the majority of convictions9. Due to aggravating circumstances, some offenders can be sentenced to life in prison without parole. These changes had major implications for first time and low-level offenders. For example, before 1986, simple possession would have required offenders to pay a fine. After 1986, these same individuals could be sentenced to a federal penitentiary for a minimum of two, three, or five years for the least severe offense depending on the substance.

In 1994, Congress approved the “Safety Valve” exception to mandatory minimums. These provisions allow prosecutors to refrain from requesting mandatory minimums for defendants found guilty of low-level offenses, such as simple procession or intent, while meeting certain case key criteria. These requirements include a lack of criminal history, violence, weapon procession, as well as limited involvement in drug enterprise and full compliance with sharing information with law enforcement.

Most recently, the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 reduced the disparity in sentencing guidelines between crack and powder cocaine. Previously, 1 gram of crack cocaine was held to the same standards as 100 grams of powder cocaine. After 2010, this gap was amended to a 1 in 17 ratio. While this ruling represents a positive step towards sentencing equality, a disparity between the two substances remains.

11-18-1to100-disparity2Policy Shortcomings

Despite the efforts of the Fair Sentencing Act and Safety Valve procedures, federal mandatory drug minimums continue to support an unsustainably large and racially disproportionate prison population. These shortcomings are highlighted when considering the two primary intentions of the mandatory minimums- both of which have failed to be realized.

First, mandatory minimums were intended to reduce major drug trafficking. Rather, these procedures have been used to incarcerate low-level offenders. As penalties are determined by the quantity of drugs involved, this broad policy fails to recognize the function or threat of the individuals who are typically arrested and charged with drug trafficking. For example, a currier may be carrying large quantities of a substance but often represents the least culpable participant in an international drug selling organization. In the Sentencing Commissions September 2013 report to Congress, they reported the category of drug offenders most often subject to mandatory minimums are street level dealers, many levels away from major suppliers and trade leaders. As their report explains, “While Congress appears to have intended to impose these mandatory penalties on ‘major’ or ‘serious’ drug traffickers, in practice the penalties have swept more broadly.”

Second, mandatory minimums were intended to reduce sentencing disparity. The original authors believed limiting judicial discretion and fixing sentence range would result in uniformed prison terms. However, contemporary research indicates the opposite has occurred because sentencing guidelines continue to require a tremendous amount of judicial discretion while doing little to address the issue of racial inequity head on. For example, judges must decide if a mandatory sentence can be triggered in the first place and if any aggravating circumstances can be proven to increase the sentence above the minimum.

According to a national study conducted at Northwestern University, defendants of color were significantly more likely to qualify for mandatory minimums and aggravating circumstances compared to white defendants, and were also less likely to qualify for Safety Vales exemptions. Their findings indicate 41.1 percent of Latino offenders were subject to minimum guidelines compared to only 28 percent of White defendants. Further, 70 percent of drug cases involving white offenders proved aggravating circumstances, as compared to 88.4 percent of cases involving African-American offenders. Qualitative data from the Northwestern study indicate a number of judges would have preferred to reduce the sentences for people of color, in particular, due to mitigating circumstances but were unable to due to restrictions in judicial discretion. As the conclusion explain,

In short, our findings suggest that judicial discretion does not contribute to, and may in fact mitigate, racial disparities in Guidelines sentencing. Policy makers interested in redressing racial disparity today should pay much closer attention to the effects of mandatory minimums and their effect on prosecutorial and judicial discretion.”

The Smarter Sentencing Act

In light of growing national awareness about the current state of crisis in our prison system, not limited to a failed War on Drugs, overcrowded facilities, skyrocketing recidivism rates, and irrefutable racial inequity, federal policy makers, think tanks, and Attorney General Eric Holder have been pouring over the issue of sentencing reform for the better part of two years. The current status of this effort is a bill known as “The Smarter Sentencing Act” submitted to the Senate floor by the Judiciary Committee on January 30, 2014.

If approved, the Smarter Sentencing Act would:

  • Reduce mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders and direct the US Sentencing Commission to lower sentencing guidelines accordingly;
  • Give judges more leeway to ignore mandatory minimums in cases with mitigating factors;
  • Make the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 retroactive. The Fair Sentencing Act reduced the sentencing disparity between powder cocaine and crack cocaine from 100:1 t0 18:1 by reducing the amount of crack triggering five and ten year mandatory minimums from 5 and 28 grams respectively to 50 and 280 grams. This act also eliminated the five-year mandatory minimum for possessing five grams of crack. However, the Fair Sentencing Act only applied to offenders prosecuted after 2010. The Smarter Sentencing Act would retroactively reduce the sentences of individuals currently serving sentences based on the old crack cocaine sentencing guideline.

The Smarter Sentencing Act is a step in the right direction and is likely to have a major positive impact on the prison population if passed. In particular, the retroactive application of the Fair Sentencing Act is likely to reduce the over-representation of people of color in the prison system. However this act is not enough. In particular, a disparity between crack and powder cocaine continues to exist. In addition, only a small cross-section of the sentencing guidelines will be reformatted.

As social workers, we must remain active in the fight to end mass incarceration and the over-representation of people of color in the criminal justice system. We must be creative and vigilant in creating new solutions to prison reform. According the Urban Institute’s “Stemming the Tides” report, here are some suggestions for additional “Front-End Changes” (i.e. reducing the number of people committed to prison and reducing their sentence length) and “Back-End Changes” (i.e. increasing the number of people released from prison and reducing recidivism).

Front-End Changes

  • Reduce all drug sentencing minimums by half
  • Increase access to Safety Valves exceptions
  • Increase the use of drug treatment diversion
  • Increase access to community-based drug treatment and services to prevent drug crime

Back-End Changes

  • Apply all current and future sentencing guideline reductions retroactively
  • Increase use of Early Release programs for good behavior and negative drug tests, as well as for the terminally ill and inmates over 70 years old
  • Increase transition and re-entry services and begin services prior to release date
  • Increase the use of probation and house-arrest

What are your thoughts on prison reform? How can we reduce the prison population, increase racial equity, and find an alternative approach to drug treatment? How can we, as social workers, be more involved in this fight for justice? Share your thoughts and comments below!

What is Social Inclusion

arms-around-the-world-promoSocial Inclusion has become a bit of a buzz-phrase in society today. “I’m not a racist, but…” has developed into almost a joke for those who cannot accept that everyone operates through prejudices on one level or another.

Yet, it is still a common phrase used to excuse a person’s thoughts on another culture. As a Social Worker, you may have encountered prejudices from your Service Users, and it may even have been directed at you. Racism is still deeply embedded into our society, but your job is in an important position to push for change.

A definition of Social Inclusion

Most agree that social inclusion can be defined as a number of affirmative action’s undertaken in order to reverse the social exclusion of individuals or groups in our society; hence it is important to understand what social exclusion is. In this article we view the impact of the “lack of social inclusion” and its consequences.

The lack of social inclusion or racism could be viewed as being seemingly inherent across the world. Some people desire a homogenous society in which to live. Simply going on holiday to a country where people who look like you are rare can result in stares, questions, photographs and even rejection from a society that simply doesn’t understand you. In the UK, the media plays a big part in our opinions on people who come from elsewhere to live here. We are constantly bombarded with the idea that the UK is crowded, that we simply cannot accept any more people. We are force fed huge exaggerations that anyone who wasn’t born in the UK comes here to steal your healthcare, your benefits and convert everyone to their religions and ways of life. Anyone with the ability to look outside knows that this simply isn’t the case.

Nina Davuluri
Nina Davuluri

One recent and very public example of the lack of social inclusion occurred in America after the winner of the annual Miss America competition was revealed to be a lady of Indian descent from New York. This case highlighted the many uses of social media, and how it can be used to raise awareness as much as it can spread hate.

Many broadcasters focused on the mass of racist, derogatory, and rather ridiculous complaints about the New Miss America 2014, Nina Davuluri, on Social Media. Some accused her of winning too close to 9/11 and that this opened up wounds for the “real American people”. The winner was born and raised in America with no mention of her religious beliefs, yet because of the colour of her skin and her heritage, she should be implicated in a tragedy. There is a level of ignorance and segregation clearly visible in these times that would otherwise have been kept between the commenter and their closest.

Closer to home, many of us have to suffer the propaganda of the English Defence League, or EDL. Formed in 2009 in Luton, this is a far-right street protest community who oppose Islamism, Sharia Law and extremism. They are against social inclusion. They have been described by many as Islam phobic and often take to the streets inciting violence. They are linked to the BNP and have around 30,000 active members at the moment. They were recently denied the right to stage a protest at Tower Hamlets- a large Muslim community- for fear of more violence. Although everyone has the right to freedom of speech and not everyone is comfortable with the UK becoming a multicultural country, the EDL have gained notoriety and a strong opposition from those trying to promote peaceful integration for everyone.

Of course, the saying goes “one bad apple spoils the whole barrel” but this simplistic view has a vast impact on social inclusion. Many people learned about Islam after the USA and UK were under attack from terrorists. First impressions have a tendency to stick and the fear created was unlike any other we have experienced in our lifetimes. When Western Countries were subject to extremists and terrorist acts, we became defensive. Islam was not a well-known subject for many, so the extremists became the faces of Islam, the celebrities of the Muslim community. It took a lot of time before any non-extremists were allowed to come forward to defend the Muslim faith. Slowly, the public is being shown the true version of the faith while starting to trust and respect those who enter into their communities. But, a lot of damage has been done and differences will always cause conflict.

Racism and cultural differences have a long history and are the main reason for fears, conflicts and segregation, resulting in the effects of a negative view of social inclusion. It is easy for us to accept everyone, all over the world, regardless of age, skin colour, religion or culture. But, many people do not. To understand this, you have to analyse and accept the almost anchored forms of racism and persecution that have existed, and been considered normal, throughout the history of the entire world. The first British people who arrived in Japan were killed by Samurai because they did not know to bow to them when they passed in the street and were instantly executed.

So, as a Social Worker, what can you do to challenge and combat these thoughts and feelings, which can have a profound impact on a person’s identity and life? How do you support social inclusion?

Firstly, you are expected to continuously acknowledge, recognise and confront all forms of racism, within all of the institutions related to and relevant to your position. Social Work, alongside all Public services, including the Police, are subject to the Race Relations Act of 2000. Public Authorities must promote equality at all times. During your training, you would have been made aware of this and the Human Rights Act of 1998. Social Inclusion are inherent in these laws.

Institutional or Structural Racism is ultimately your focus which is defined as any social, economic, educational or political policies that discriminate or give preferences to one group or another. In working with multiple agencies, you will have seen the hierarchy of society and its vital to understand that race is not a Biological concept. It is a social construction, and the lack of positive steps towards social inclusion leads to further negative impacts for groups of people.

You may experience racist attitudes or beliefs in the workplace through a Service User or from an agency you are collaborating with. It is necessary to challenge these ideologies- even if they are your own. You may have entered the profession with good intentions, yet have realised you are discriminating against someone or a group of people as a result of differences. This could be as simple as not allowing equal time for discussion during a meeting, not providing the same levels of supervision or support to a colleague, or a Service User. Through your own personal growth and Professional Development, you can challenge your own ideas and those ideas of others when equality is not being promoted.

As a Social Worker, you have the ability to build relationships within communities and within your workplace. You have the power to make a change in society for the better. It is your responsibility to recognise the existence of inequality in your personal life, professional life and on a societal level. You can promote understanding and educate people on the many different cultures that live together and mostly in peace.

Racism is just one form of  the lack of social inclusion. There are many others ways in which individuals and groups are excluded in society, and it is important to focus on a person as a holistic being and to ensure that any assessment and interventions by you as a social worker takes into account all of a person’s needs.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Rose Theatre

Response to Social Worker Doesn’t Mean Liberal

How does conservatism factor into social work policy and practice? Justin Nutt, a conservative staff writer for Social Justice Solution, wrote an article entitled “Social Worker Doesn’t Mean Liberal”. When I started Social Work Helper a couple of years ago, I made a conscious decision that I would use this platform to challenge conservative and right-wing fallacies that often cause people living in the margins to vote against their own interest.

donkey-vs-elephantI was often told that it was inappropriate for a social worker to discuss politics or party affiliation in the scope of social work practice.  However, I was born, raised, and have lived my entire life in the Jim Crow South, and my almost 40 years of living on this earth tells me that our belief systems is the filter in which we process information and determines how we interact with the world.

Especially in the South, I believe it’s extremely naive to believe that a person’s belief systems does not influence their decision-making in practice. No social worker is immune from having prejudices, but it is when we lack the ability to acknowledge our deficiencies that those we serve suffer.

I have personally been affected by the racial animus of the Christian conservative right were their barbaric hatred allowed them to feel entitled to kill African-Americans at will.

My great-grandfather was killed by the Ku Klux Klan, and it happened approximately four miles from my parents’ current home where there is a street the locals refer to as Nigger Head Road. This is where they would hang black people who got out of line. My parents grew up in a segregated South, and America is not as far removed from the oppressive beliefs, policies, and politics that has perpetuated this stain on America’s history as many want to believe.

On social issues which consist of any public policy issue affecting individuals and/or society at large, I identify as a liberal. I made the decision long ago to advocate on behalf of vulnerable populations, and I believe democratic values happen to align more closely with those beliefs and principles.

When it comes to government spending, I would say my beliefs align as a fiscal conservative. If the government wants to eliminate loop holes to reduce fraud and abuse in governmental programs, I believe the other side of the equation should include elimination of tax loop holes to prevent tax avoidance by the 1 percent. I believe way to much is focused on the small percentage of federal dollars funding governmental assistance programs versus the lack of outrage for the tax-free status of the NFL while tax dollars are being used to build stadiums. 

But, when I hear Republicans talk, there is a familiar oppressive undertone that resonates which appears to be reflective of their value system. As social workers, our primary purpose is to serve the oppressed, vulnerable, addicted, and marginalized. However, It causes me great concern when helping professionals in positions of power to make policy, determinations of benefits, eligibility of services, prevention programs, and treatment hold the conservative values articulated in Mr. Nutt’s article.  

A relatively new social worker, named Amanda, wrote a response to Mr. Nutt’s article in the comments section that I wanted to share with you. She went point by point to address various statements within his article from her point of view, and here is her comment in full:

As a relatively new/young social worker who looks to experienced social workers as leaders in this profession, I must admit I am disheartened by this article.

My critique is not a slight to you personally, Mr. Nutt. I wholeheartedly support your right to form your own opinions. However, I am concerned that appearing within the context of this website frames these opinions as “social justice.” Furthermore, it suggests that stereotypical descriptions of “Liberal” and “Conservative” are evaluative social justice frameworks when in fact, they are not.

In my personal life, I am neither Liberal nor Conservative. In my professional life, I am a social worker. And as such, I use a strengths based approach to my clients’ needs, data from both research and practice, and social justice frameworks to collaborate with clients to create, assess, implement, and evaluate policy. Strictly adhering to traditional political silos because of my own personal partisan identification is not an intervention I have or will ever use.

Furthermore, as this is a social justice site, I am confused as to how the following conclusions were made through the lens of social work values or social justice evaluative frameworks:

“insurance is a personal responsibility”

Many of our clients do not have access to employment that provides insurance and cannot afford their own plan. Wouldn’t social workers acknowledge that the systems that set the price and accessibility to insurance are *also* responsible for making it something everyone *can* actually obtain? Why take a personal-deficit approach to being uninsured? Where is the macro-level assessment of this issue?

“if you are here illegally you should be deported and not giving services”

Many undocumented immigrants come to the U.S. fleeing political violence and hostility, risking death to do so. A growing number of these immigrants are very young, unaccompanied children. I was taught that social workers are to globalize their community identification with other human beings, meaning that national borders do not determine whether or not someone is entitled to life, freedom, and human rights–and the services necessary to secure those things. In other words: social justice.

“damn right you need an ID to vote,”

In the state where I reside, the voter ID law stood to disenfranchise an estimated half-million citizens in favor of eliminating “illegal voting”–something no one could even agree as to whether it even existed or was statistically significant. How is this research-informed policy making?

“just because something negative about Obama is said doesn’t mean the person is a racist. Actually saying it is a race issue creates racism,”

Social work values demand cultural competence which includes acknowledging personal racial biases. The idea that racial bias is either “present or not” or that racism can be “created” is concerning to me because racism.is.present. The U.S. is NOT post-racial and racism permeates every corner of U.S. society. Many critiques made about Obama do in fact ooze with racist microaggressions.

“if you need a drug test to get a job then those receiving government assistance should be required to take them, too”

There is a difference between an at-will employee taking a drug test to maintain employment, and the government drug testing someone as a contingency to survival. What is the solution then if someone’s test comes back dirty? Do they and their children deserve to starve because they struggle with addiction? Will that make the addiction better? Is this “social justice?”

The state of Florida spends tens of thousands of dollars per month drug testing welfare recipients and 98% test clean. Not only is this a complete waste of money but it also perpetuates the stigma that lower income folks are presumed drug users. How is this strengths-based? How is this policy position research-informed? Furthermore, social work dictates that the community most affected by a policy help create the policy. Are welfare recipients OK with being drug tested and presumed as drug users?

“I also believe abortion is acceptable, but that the current way it is used is not always the best practice.”

I am not even sure I want to go here, especially if you’re implying that the “abortion is mostly used as birth control” stereotype has any place in policy making.

“If you want equality, it must be equal treatment across the board rather than one set of rules for the majority and a special set to keep the minority from feeling persecuted…..”

I am going to stop here, because I find this just incredibly disrespectful. I am a white, straight, cisgendered, coupled, married, educated, middle-class, able-bodied, free, family-supported, food/housing secure, Christian woman, and I am not about to sit here and cry big privileged tears that some (hardly enough) policies in this country give oppressed (“minority”) groups the opportunities that I automatically have as a person with unearned, unquestioned power and privilege.  ~Amanda Woolsten, BSW, MSW Candidate

I am interested to know what are your thoughts, and does our personal values matter or don’t matter in terms of how we practice social work? Do our personal belief systems affect how we develop and implement policy? I look forward to having this debate with you.

Also view: The great social work debate – conservative or liberal? written by Australian Social Work Professor Dr. Patricia Fronek.

The “Invisible Man” Made Visible

North Carolina is making international headlines again specifically in Randolph County. On September 16, the Randolph County School Board took the book Invisible Man out of public school libraries by the request of one parent without asking for public comment on this issue. Ironically, this move happened the week before National Banned Books week. The school board had voted 5-2 to ban this book which caused an outrage of Randolph County citizens.

Invisible_ManCitizens in the community took action in very creative ways such as Books A Million giving away free copies of Invisible Man to all high school seniors. One high school senior dedicated her senior project to this case and also organized a “Banned Book Read Out” at the public library that will correspond with Banned Books Week. Another group “Visibility” organized an e-advocacy letter writing event and countless other citizens wrote letters to the editor to the local newspaper The Courier Tribune. The editor, Ray Criscoe, stated that he did not read one response in favor of the ban.

This book is important to the history of our nation and has been an important part of literature. It has been listed as one of the top 100 by the American Book review, and banning this book is counterproductive to critical thought in our school system. This book has themes and motifs about social injustice which is important for our youth. It deals with themes on racism and the obstacle to individual identity. Are we not supposed to prepare our youth for higher education and critical thinking?

By their misguided decision to ban this book they are doing exactly what the author speaks and warns about. This is keeping silent the voices of our past and of injustices perpetuated by our nation’s majority “white privilege” might not be aware of. The author challenges the complexity of his identity and internalized oppression which is limited not only by the racism in society as well as society’s ideologies and assumptions. The book challenges the ideologies of society which are often too one-dimensional to serve something as complex as the human condition.

Here is some excerpts from the book:

“What and how much had I lost by trying to do only what was expected of me instead of what I myself had wished to do?”

 “For, like almost everyone else in our country, I started out with my share of optimism. I believed in hard work and progress and action, but now, after first being ‘for’ society and then ‘against’ it, I assign myself no rank or any limit, and such an attitude is very much against the trend of the times. But my world has become one of infinite possibilities. What a phrase – still it’s a good phrase and a good view of life, and a man shouldn’t accept any other; that much I’ve learned underground. Until some gang succeeds in putting the world in a strait jacket, its definition is possibility.”

“I am an invisible man. No I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allen Poe: Nor am I one of your Hollywood movie ectoplasms .I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids- and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, simply because people refuse to see me.”

― Ralph Ellison’ Invisible Man

As a result of the public outcry on this terribly misguided action, the Randolph County school board decided today in a vote of 6-1 to rescind the ban on this book. We must not be kept silent in our freedom of speech or censorship of our media will be next.

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