Lisa Ling has covered a range of topics on her documentary series "Our America," from underage sex trafficking to the difficulties of being gay and Christian. Now, the 38-year-old journalist is taking on the issue of black male incarceration.
In an episode titled "Incarceration Generation," Ling will explore the disproportionate number of black men behind bars and the challenges they face after being released. The show will also discuss the effect imprisonment has had on multiple generations, creating a cycle of poverty in the African American community.
Ling spoke about her work with the OWN network series that is now in its second season, a venture she took on after doing investigative work for the National Geographic Channel and a three year stint on ABC's "The View."
"It has certainly been the most gratifying work experience I've ever had,"she said, according to Eurweb.com. "I can't tell you how many times throughout the course of shooting this series, that I felt like I was in a foreign place or a distant place. But the reality is that all of these stories, in their greatest complexity, are in our backyards."
Statistics show that an incarcerated man is not foreign within the black community. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, non-Hispanic blacks comprised 39.4 percent of the total prison and jail population in 2009, with an imprisonment rate that was six times higher than white males and almost three times higher than Hispanic males.
That number goes beyond prison doors and into homes. A Bureau of Justice Statistics special report found that over 1.7 million children had a parent in prison in 2008, usually a father. Of those fathers, four in 10 in state or federal prisons were black.
Studies have found that children of incarcerated parents face unique difficulties including increased chances of homelessness, agressive behavior, failure in school and future imprisonment.
In addition, ex-offenders are far less likely to find a job upon their release from prison, crippled not only by their criminal record, but oftentimes, additionally hindered by their lack of experience and education. According to a 2003 report by the New York University Urban Institute Reentry Roundtable, about 70 percent of offenders and ex-offenders are high school dropouts.
Ling takes on these issues and more in the episode, which airs Nov. 20 at 10pm ET/PT.