Why are American prisons disproportionately filled with blacks and minorities?
In 2016, the imprisonment rate for black women was almost double the rate for white women in state and federal prisons. Black men 18 and 19 also were 11.8 times more likely to be imprisoned than white males of the same age, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Those figures have sparked debate about laws that some argue criminalize, target and racially profile disadvantaged minority populations.
Elgin Community College hopes to address this issue in the third session of its "Targets of Hate" series Feb. 13, focusing on the 13th Amendment and the school-to-prison pipeline.
The presentation will include a showing of the Academy Award-nominated Netflix documentary "13TH," whose title refers to the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolishing slavery. The documentary addresses the mass incarceration of blacks feeding a burgeoning prison industry, and features archival footage and testimony from activists, politicians, historians and former prisoners.
It will be followed by a discussion moderated by Vincent Gaddis, Benedictine University history professor specializing in African-American history and the Black Lives Matter movement, and David Carrillo, ECC professor of health and human services and a licensed counselor.
Organizers hope to raise awareness about what's happening within the justice and prison systems and how society responds to former prisoners in college and the workplace.
"The war on drugs accounted for lots of young people spending incredible amounts of time in prison," said Clark Hallpike, an ECC business professor and co-chair of the college's Multicultural and Global Initiatives Committee. "This documentary shows all of the laws that contributed to this issue."
ECC's Targets of Hate series began last fall in the aftermath of the August rally by white nationalists and supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, stoking racial hatred and rage that erupted into deadly violence.
"There was a lot of uneasiness going on and we thought it was important as a community to address these issues," said Susan Timm, digital technology professor and committee co-chair.
Two earlier sessions addressed controversial topics being debated nationally -- displaying the Confederate flag and monuments, and hate speech versus freedom of speech. The latter session drew more than 300 attendees with standing room only in ECC's Spartan Auditorium.
"The topics are timely. They are relevant," Timm said. "We really want to educate people. We can make a difference at least in our community."
The program begins at 6:30 p.m. in the Building E dining hall on ECC's campus, 1700 Spartan Drive. Community members and representatives of the Elgin Police Department, Gail Borden Public Library, and social welfare agencies have been invited.