Prison emergency won't be solved until young black people get a fair chance; say community leaders

Published: Jun. 26, 2020 at 6:42 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

On the heels of Nebraska sounding the alarm on its overcrowded prisons, leaders within Omaha’s black community say the problem won’t be solved until their young people start getting a fair chance.

It’s a problem in prisons across the country, black people making up a disproportionate number of inmates. In Nebraska black people account for 25 percent of prison inmates, yet only make up 5 percent of the population

Pastor Tony Sanders runs an outreach program at Christ Church in North Omaha; he says prevention is key in bringing that number down.

“Unless there are targeted programs, resources, services targeted at those who have a target on their back, think that’s sometimes what’s overlooked,” said Sanders, noting the community needs continued investment in everything from after-school programs to job training

“It’s about programs, HeadStart programs, job programs, after school programs and other programs that help individuals to have an edge and fight chance of succeeding.”

Sanders says one bad interaction with police can quickly undo any investment.

“And then all of the sudden, in what’s referred to as routine stop, all that is erased, it’s lost.”

On Thursday Omaha’s police chief announced policy changes addressing racial injustice, including race-relations training beginning next month.

“Training that we think is necessary to improve the Omaha Police Department and that training is put on just from everything we’ve heard and learned from protest events across the country and locally,” said Chief, Todd Schmaderer

Sanders says making sure police have positive contact with young black people will go a long way in lower the number of inmates in Nebraska’s Prisons.

“Whatever happens in that contact is going to heavily determine what’s going to happen in relation to sentencing, conviction, and so on and so forth.”

Other policy changes announced by Omaha Police include requiring officers to intervene when another officer is violating policy, as well as banning the knee to neck pin.