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race and incarceration

Talking about . . . race and incarceration

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Increasing attention has been given to the disproportionate numbers of minorities in American prisons, especially African American detainees. A growing number of Americans see this as a reflection of racial bias in the criminal justice system, both in arrest policies and prosecution/conviction practices. Everyone wants a criminal justice system that is fair and makes our communities safer. Is it possible to have a discussion that explores opportunities to have our criminal justice system improve its outcomes and that acknowledges a broader complexity around this question, rather than only trying to pin in on one thing or another?

Click here if you would like a pdf of the following topic material to share with your cohost and friends.

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Background reading (optional)

While you don't need to be an expert on this topic, sometimes people want background information. Our partner, AllSides, has prepared a variety of articles reflecting multiple sides of this topic. 

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Want to listen to an actual Living Room Conversation?

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Now that you are all together, here we go!

This Living Room Conversation flows through five rounds of questions and a closing. Some rounds ask you to answer each question. Others feature multiple questions that serve as conversation starters — you need only respond to the one or two you find most interesting.

Before you begin your conversation, please go over the Conversation Ground Rules with your participants.

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One. Why are we here?

What interested you or drew you to this topic?

Two. Your core values

Answer one or more of the following:
  • what sense of purpose or duty guides you in life? What is your mission statement?
  • what would your best friend say about who you are and what makes you tick?
  • what are your hopes and concerns for your community and/or the country, now and long-term?

Three. What are your biggest concerns about race and incarceration?

Remember that the goal of this Living Room Conversation is for each participant to listen to and learn about the different opinions within the group to see where you might share interests, intentions and goals. 

Answer one or more of the following questions:
  • are there community and cultural differences that contribute to a higher incarceration rate among non-white people?
  • is the current system fair?  What is the basis for your belief in the fairness or unfairness?
  • what are the factors that contribute to your sense of safety in your surroundings?
  • how often are you in neighborhoods with a diverse population?

Four. Reflection

Answer one or more of the following questions:
  • in one sentence, share what was most meaningful or valuable to you in the experience of this Living Room Conversation;
  • what new understanding or common ground did you find within this topic?
  • has this conversation changed your perception of anyone in this group, including yourself?

Five. Accomplishment and moving forward

Answer both of the following questions:
  • name one important thing that was accomplished here;
  • is there a next step you would like to take based upon the conversation you just had?

Closing

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