Back at home, when the new Eisenhower administration downplayed civil rights, federal courts took the lead. In 1950, the NAACP decided to challenge the concept of “separate but equal.” Fed up with poor, overcrowded schools, black parents in South Carolina and Virginia sued to get their children into white schools. Both times, federal courts upheld segregation. Both times, the parents appealed. Meanwhile, in a similar case, Delaware’s Supreme Court ordered a district to admit black students to white schools until adequate classrooms could be provided for blacks. This time, the district appealed.
According to a report from the Sentencing Project, a justice reform group, 75 percent of black males in Washington, . can expect to go to prison or jail during their lifetime. Longer sentences mean many spend decades behind bars — well into middle and old age — even though studies have shown that the likelihood of committing a crime drops steeply once a man enters his 30s.
Mass incarceration also has a strong negative effect on an inmate’s family. Tierney follows one family that became homeless when the father began a twenty-year prison term at the age of 24. “Basically, I was locked up with him,” his wife told Tierney. “My mind was locked up. My life was locked up. Our daughters grew up without their father.”