Everett Gillison- Mayor’s Chief of Staff for the City of Philadelphia (cont’d)

I find it amazing that mass incarceration started as a result of what Michelle Alexander put in her book, the fact that this was just a different way of using racial control. So they used the same things that were being done in the 1860’s, they just extended it into a modern context. So if we’re not going to have the racial discussion which I don’t believe America ever wants to have, it just wants to kind of ignore that history, but unless we deal with it, we will always come against these issues. But let’s say we can put it aside, let’s put race aside, so let’s have the educational discussion. Since 1954 there has been a steady attack on public education. Remember, this country actually had public education as one of its great tenants when it was founded, the whole idea after the pre industrial revolution and post civil war was the fact that you flooded the schools that came about, and public education with investments in schools, in cities, and towns, and states to really have a common language and a common citizenship heritage that could be taught on a mass level. That has pretty much, now, been completely undercut in the last 50 years, I dare say, and I think it came as a result of Brown, that said you have to educate people not in a separate but equal but in a unified system, and you have to put tax dollars in at an equal level in order to make sure people could have the educational attainment that they could actually dream of obtaining. If that was going to be the truth, then all of a sudden you started seeing different ways for people to opt out. To the point now, because of technology, you don’t even have to go anywhere to really interact with anybody, you actually just stay and home and be online and just do what you need to do to learn. 

    I think that that discussion is something that we haven’t had, but, for black men in this country, they have given up so much since the 70’s and 80’s that, tripping on the line, getting involved in criminal justice immediately takes you out of getting any educational attainment. As a result, you’re already on a different trajectory no matter what. So what we’re trying to do in this administration, and really export all over the country is, utilizing diversion programs so that if there is a trip, if you hit the trip wire, you don’t necessarily have to go down that path, but you can go down a different path that actually emphasizes more educational attainment and forces you to acknowledge that you have some responsibility for your own involvement in this. All at the same time, you can turn around, and not have to have a permanent scar on your permanent record. That’s the fight that we’re going on, but we have police commissioners now who are saying, we have to do whatever we can to not make the arrest and put people in different situations so we’re not chasing after these people for 1,2,3,4,5,8,9 years. You do that with the right number of people, not only will you start to see your crime numbers go down, but you’ll start to see educational attainment go up and that’s the key to true public safety and that’s what we want to get to.

Everett Gillison- Mayor’s Chief of Staff for the City of Philadelphia. 


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