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Mass Incarceration Discussion to Kick Off Juneteenth Celebration - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Mass Incarceration Discussion to Kick Off Juneteenth Celebrations

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Many will commemorate the abolition of slavery this weekend with Juneteenth celebrations. Thursday night, dozens gathered at Charlottesville City Hall for a serious discussion about what many are calling a new form of segregation.

Thursday night's discussion centered on the topic of mass incarceration and what the city of Charlottesville can do to help ex-offenders transition back into society.

On June 19, many will celebrate "Freedom Day", the day that the abolition of slavery was announced in Texas back in 1865. But some say African-American males are facing a new form of slavery called mass incarceration.

University of Virginia Ph.D Candidate Hephzibah Strmic-Pawl stated, "The criminal justice system is racist. It has racist foundations."

Thursday's discussion centered around "The New Jim Crow", a book written by Michelle Alexander. The book focuses on the disproportionate number of African-American men in the criminal justice system.

"When one in six black men in their 20s is being incarcerated, it's time that we step back and recognize that and look at the system and how it's operating," said Strmic-Pawl.

Some argue that incarceration has become the newest type of segregation.

Strmic-Pawl explained, "Prisons are largely built in rural towns, way out of the way, where they can't be seen and don't have a voice. It really is segregation on another level."

Now, members of Charlottesville's Dialogue on Race program say they're working to address this issue starting with the city's school system.

Charlottesville Vice-Mayor Holly Edwards stated, "One thing that became clear is the importance of education, so we can continue to make sure that we are addressing the achievement gap in our school system."

Edwards says it's also important that more people become civically engaged, "getting involved in the school board, getting involved in city council, taking responsibility for decisions that are made by voting."

Thursday night's meeting was just the first of a number of events celebrating Juneteenth in Charlottesville.

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