Trayvon Martin, Fear of Crime and Mass Incarceration

by Peter Wagner, March 30, 2012  

The recent killing of unarmed African-American 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida by a leader of a Community Watch program is sparking an overdue discussion about race, crime and Florida’s “stand your ground” law that makes it easier to shoot someone and claim self-defense.

The vigilante ethos behind “Stand Your Ground” has very little to do with legitimate fears of crime.

Check out this graph, which shows that African-Americans are almost twice as likely as Whites to be victimized by burglary, yet African-Americans support making it harder to access guns. African-Americans aren’t the advocates of laws that make it easier to use a weapon.

graph showing that Blacks are victims of Burglary more frequently than Whites and a graph showing that Blacks are more stronger supporters of gun control than Whites

So which politically powerful group has the lowest incidence of burglary? Those with the most money:

graph showing burglary victimization rates in 2009 by income

There is no question that having your home burglarized is traumatic and harmful. But we need responses to societal problems that make us safer. Neither vigilantism nor mass incarceration fit the bill. And in a truly just system, the communities that pay the highest price for crime would play the largest role in determining how we should address crime.

As the tragedy of Trayvon Martin shows, letting fear drive social policy makes us all less safe.

Meet us

  • Jan 25-27, 2015:
    Executive Director Peter Wagner will be in Charlotte, North Carolina for meetings about redistricting and ending prison gerrymandering. Contact us if you’d like to meet up.
  • February 5, 2015:
    Executive Director Peter Wagner will be in New York for the reception of the exhibition, Prison Obscura, curated by Prison Photography editor Pete Brook. The exhibition includes Prison Map, a PPI collaboration with Josh Begley. The event will be held at Parsons School of Design from 6:30-8:30pm.
  • February 6, 2015:
    Executive Director Peter Wagner will be at Yale for a panel presentation at the “Equality Re-Imagined” Conference. Further details TBA.
  • February 20, 2015:
    Executive Director Peter Wagner, Board Member Amanda Alexander and Advisory Board Member Bruce Reilly will present on a panel entitled “The fight against mass incarceration: Combining litigation and policy work for systemic change” at RebLaw at Yale Law School from 3-4:30pm.
  • February 24, 2015:
    Executive Director Peter Wagner will be speaking to the American Constitution Society Chapter at UConn School of Law at 12:30pm. Topics will include mass incarceration, prison gerrymandering, sentencing enhancement zones and more.

Not near you?
Invite us to your city, college or organization.

Events

  • Jan 25-27, 2015:
    Executive Director Peter Wagner will be in Charlotte, North Carolina for meetings about redistricting and ending prison gerrymandering. Contact us if you’d like to meet up.
  • February 5, 2015:
    Executive Director Peter Wagner will be in New York for the reception of the exhibition, Prison Obscura, curated by Prison Photography editor Pete Brook. The exhibition includes Prison Map, a PPI collaboration with Josh Begley. The event will be held at Parsons School of Design from 6:30-8:30pm.
  • February 6, 2015:
    Executive Director Peter Wagner will be at Yale for a panel presentation at the “Equality Re-Imagined” Conference. Further details TBA.
  • February 20, 2015:
    Executive Director Peter Wagner, Board Member Amanda Alexander and Advisory Board Member Bruce Reilly will present on a panel entitled “The fight against mass incarceration: Combining litigation and policy work for systemic change” at RebLaw at Yale Law School from 3-4:30pm.
  • February 24, 2015:
    Executive Director Peter Wagner will be speaking to the American Constitution Society Chapter at UConn School of Law at 12:30pm. Topics will include mass incarceration, prison gerrymandering, sentencing enhancement zones and more.

Not near you?
Invite us to your city, college or organization.

Newsletters:

Get the latest updates by signing up for our newsletters:


Tweet this page Follow @PrisonPolicy on Twitter Donate Contact Us