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Release: JPI Stands by Data in 2002 on Education and Incarceration

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                      
October 3, 2012

Contacts: Zerline Hughes – 202.558.7974 x308 or 617.596.6958 zhughes@justicepolicy.org
Adwoa Masozi – 202.558.7974 x306 / amasozi@justicepolicy.org

JPI Stands by Data in 2002 on Education and Incarceration
Says Highlighting Problems is the Only Way to Solve Them

WASHINGTON, DC – The Justice Policy Institute (JPI) took issue with a new film being screened nationally – and soon, internationally. The film, entitled “Hoodwinked,” wrongly accuses the Justice Policy Institute (JPI) of intentionally misusing data in a 2002 report. The filmmaker did not offer JPI opportunity for comment or explanation of its data collection and analysis during the production of the film.

The 87-minute documentary, produced and directed by Janks Morton, purports that JPI’s data showing there were more black men incarcerated in jail and prison than enrolled in college in 2000 misrepresented the facts and, that this misrepresentation was done to garner more funding.

The report, Cellblocks or Classrooms? The Funding of Higher Education and Corrections and Its Impact on African American Men, brought to light the fact that the United States in the year 2000 – and still today – chooses to invest in the criminal justice system and not our educational system.  JPI stands by the methodology used in the 2002 report, noting that if the film producer had spoken with researchers, they could have walked him through the data.

Cellblocks or Classrooms? was a wake-up call and a call to action,” said JPI Executive Director Tracy Velàzquez. “This was at a time that policymakers, the media and the general public had little understanding of the harmful effects of two decades of ‘tough on crime’ policies. Unfortunately, a decade after this report, the issue of education and incarceration continues as many states still spend more on corrections than they do on colleges.”

Velázquez also noted that, as with all JPI reports, Cellblocks or Classrooms? featured a set of recommendations, which included: repeal mandatory sentencing; reform drug laws; restructure sentencing, and reform parole practices. Implementing these policies would work to reverse the number of African-American men who are incarcerated at higher rates than any other ethnic group.

Regarding the accuracy of the original data, JPI created a factsheet highlighting the methodology used.

“We believed then, and still believe, that there is power in knowledge,” added Velázquez.  “We cannot wish away reality.  A higher level of awareness for the need for policy change is crucial  among both those who are most affected and people who otherwise might not understand the toll incarceration takes – particularly on communities of color. Recent positive changes in the justice system would not have happened without the shift in public opinion that JPI and other organizations worked to bring about through reports like Cellblocks to Classrooms?

The Justice Policy Institute, based in Washington, DC, is working to reduce the use of incarceration and the justice system and promote policies that improve the well-being of all people and communities. For more information, please visit www.justicepolicy.org.

Read Cellblocks or Classrooms? report
Read JPI methodology factsheet
Read Diverse Issues in Higher Education article

Posted in Press Releases