RACE RELATIONS: Solving Racial Disparity in American Prisons

By: Tegan Broadwater, Author of LIFE IN THE FISH BOWL – July 27, 2015

Prison Disparity600x400
For more than 50 years, the disparity between people of color and whites in prison has grown exponentially in America. No significant progress has been made despite political campaigns, changing laws, reduced sentences, the implementation of more stringent law enforcement profiling practices, and high-profile civilian movements for change. I suggest it is because these supposed solutions do not address the true issue. Current statistics vary depending on whom you ask, but there is one true thread among them; this remarkable disparity does exist.


With the recent focus on law enforcement vs. minority relations and the emotionally charged contention from all sides, we must take an honest look at this new solution before more damage is done. There is a true lack of cultural understanding between extremely opposing views on this issue. We know there are some bad cops but more great ones. We know there are minorities that are criminals but many more are innocent. In order to succeed in conquering this issue, we must place political, occupational and racial dispositions aside and view this important solution as one – as Americans. This is an American problem and we can fix this.


Lifetime Likelihood of Imprisonment (The Sentencing Project Research and Advocacy for Reform):


  • White Men: 1 in 17
  • Latino Men: 1 in 6
  • Black Men: 1 in 3


If at first you don’t CONCEDE – try, try again

Ignore your biases for a moment and concede one very important fact; this unjust disparity was set into motion many generations ago by a more ignorant, racist-populated criminal justice system. This does not mean however, that our current system is racist. It is prejudiced perhaps, but not in the manner you might think.


When the initial incarceration of these people of color occurred generations ago, their children were left behind to deal with life without a father to mentor and create an environment of accountability. These children equal or outnumber their incarcerated parents. With single mothers as their sole support, they also often end up in lower-income environments. Statistically, this fatherless and economically disadvantaged existence results in higher percentages of kids committing crimes that end in their own incarceration. The numbers of children with incarcerated parents grow as generations pass and as a result, so do the numbers of incarcerated people of color. This does not even account for criminal recidivism, which is an entirely separate but considerable issue altogether.


Despite the corrupt generations-old arrests of people of color without fair due process, the purported crimes their [fatherless] children committed became actual crimes as time passed and the disparity grew. This is where I suggest some of our current justice system prejudiced profiling applies. For example, profiling has been an effective practice by which police anticipate and intervene on criminal acts. In large part, this is their job. This practice became more racially based over several generations, as actual crimes were committed as opposed to fabricating them. The present argument is not that the numbers of incarcerated people of color are innocent, but that the numbers do not correlate equally with societal crime. This justice system prejudice will markedly decrease when we tackle this sensitive issue with a new approach.

  • Fatherless children are at greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, suicide, poor educational performance, teen pregnancy and criminality – U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services, National Center for Health Statistics, Survey on Child Health, Washington D.C.

The solution is now about ending the perpetual cycle by which children of incarcerated parents commit crimes resulting in arrest and subsequent departure from fatherhood. How do we stop this growing cycle? Change drug laws? Repeal voting restrictions for convicted felons? Retroactively reduce legitimate sentences? Let’s face it; these ideas are patronizing.


One boy at a time – One family at a time – One community at a time

Mentoring children of incarcerated parents provides a positive impact on all of society. Ask Gary Randle or Noble Crawford (Co-founders of H.O.P.E. Farm, Inc.).  Their organization works with boys beginning at age five with incarcerated fathers. They also work closely with their mothers and teachers. They provide life accountability: mentoring, positive reinforcement, discipline, leadership, self-respect and a life plan for success. Randle puts it succinctly: “A man who doesn’t understand that there are consequences for his actions is the most dangerous individual in the world.”


little boy holding handH.O.P.E. Farm has now successfully graduated young men from high school and college, decidedly changing the numbers of those that would normally end up a statistical inmate.


I spent 18-months of my 13-year law enforcement career working a deep undercover operation to infiltrate violent CRIPs. My goal was to save a community from violent gang, gun and drug crime. I gained an invaluable glimpse into a culture that I could not have fully appreciated otherwise. I have always enjoyed my experiences with friends and others of different races. There was no real way to naturally assimilate into their families, habits, predispositions and cultures. Through this operation, I came as close as one can to experiencing behind the scenes, a number of fatherless African American males and females that were involved with the criminal street gang life. I soon understood their reasons for making the wrong choices.


Next came the intensive law enforcement round up and manhunt for the 51 CRIP gang members I’d infiltrated (41 federally sentenced and 10 sentenced at the state level). I soon realized the number of children they would leave behind (104) and rededicated my efforts. I decided to focus on stopping this cycle of gang violence and disparate incarceration. The result was that I recognized the significant racial and cultural impact beyond the individual children we would save. This transcended a single remedy. Even the arrestees in my undercover operation could appreciate an effort to keep their children from following their footsteps into prison. But what if we could keep these children out of prison on a wider scale than a single community? I authored a book detailing my harrowing and personal undercover experiences within this operation. All of the book sale profits are donated to charities that mentor children of incarcerated parents like H.O.P.E. Farm, Inc. (www.HopeFarmInc.org).


One-Step to the Goal


Mentor fatherless males of color and appreciate the significant impact it can have on our disparate minority inmate population.

If we employ this tactic in communities around the U.S., we will have effectively solved this problem within three generations. Knowing this disparity began in a generations-old and bigoted justice system, we must now take responsibility to fix it. This solution will not only balance the U.S. prison population, but also significantly improve American race relations and send us on our way toward a more unified nation.


About the Author: Tegan Broadwater is an ex-undercover operator and author of “LIFE IN THE FISH BOWL, The true story of how one white cop infiltrated and took down 41 of the nation’s most notorious Crips” detailing a harrowing 18-month deep cover operation that successfully took down a significant criminal enterprise.

All profits from his book are donated to charities that mentor children of incarcerated parents.

He is also the Founder & COO of Tactical Systems Network, LLC (TSN) – An executive-level security and investigations firm in Fort Worth, Texas. TSN’s clients range from Fortune 100 companies to private wealth individuals, schools and businesses.