We’ve all seen young Black men wearing white T-shirts and jeans sagging so low that their underwear was on display for all to see. And we’ve all shaken our heads and wondered what they were thinking, coming outside dressed like that. The sad truth is that they probably weren’t thinking. They are simply emulating popular fashion, not knowing the trend’s origin or understanding the potential social and personal consequences of blindly following the masses.
The saggin’-pants trend started in prison. Inmates, not allowed to have belts, wear their pants slung low. Once home, they continued the practice. Young boys in their neighborhoods took the look as their own. The trend grew and is immensely popular in both urban and suburban areas; many White teens now wear their pants dropping below their butts.
Emulating prisoners, or any other group, without understanding what you’re doing is dangerous. For young Black men, the trend is especially self-destructive. Copying prisoners can contribute to a prisoner’s mentality. Already our young men refer to a prison stint as a state-paid “vacation” or time away at “school.” Prison is not luxurious and the education received there will not serve the inmate well once he returns home. Prison has become, for many, an unfortunate rite of passage. Instead of fighting against the odds, too many of our boys are embracing the street mentality. They must understand that prison is nothing more than modern-day slavery. Inmates in some U.S. prisons produce products sold on the open market. They receive just $1 a day while the large corporations that run the prisons make millions.
TV personality Judge Greg Mathis is launching a Prisoner Initiative entitled PEER standing for Prisoner Empowerment Education and Respect. Through the initiative Judge Mathis will visit jails and prisons throughout the country to encourage inmates to change their lives. Motivated by his own experience as a troubled youth who overcame the challenges of being incarcerated, Judge Mathis will share his personal experiences and offer advice and encouragement to inmates.
To date, the Judge has made PEER appearances at the Wayne County Jail in Detroit, where he was previously sentenced to serve nearly one year, the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta, GA, the State Correctional Institution at Chester, PA and most recently spoke with the youth population at Rikers Island, NY. The Judge, who is scheduled to return back to NY to speak with the adult male population at Rikers as well as visit Sing Sing, will visit Cook County Boot Camp in Chicago, IL on March 26th.