Shaun Ossei-Owusu

Shaun Ossei-Owusu is a writing fellow at The American Prospect.

Recent Articles

Poverty’s Punishment: America’s Oppressive Bail Regime

Bail systems across the country continue to function as another way the criminal justice system exacerbates poverty and racial inequality.

(Photo: Flickr/Matthias Müller)
In 2010, 16-year-old Kalief Browder was arrested for allegedly stealing a backpack. He could not afford to post bail and spent nearly three years on Rikers Island, one of the country’s worst correctional facilities. Mr. Browder spent two of these years in solitary confinement. He repeatedly tried to take his life . In 2013, the prosecutor’s office dropped the charges and released him. Two years later, he committed suicide. The Browder tragedy captured widespread public attention. Mayor Bill de Blasio, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, and others weighed in on this miscarriage of justice. In October, rapper Jay Z announced his plans for a film about Browder’s life. Ava DuVernay’s new mass incarceration documentary 13th , discusses Browder’s case and includes surveilliance video that shows Browder being beaten by inmates and correctional officers. One week after the film’s release, Kalief’s mother Venida, an outspoken criminal justice...

Race and the Tragedy of Quota-Based Policing

Arrest targets compound the risk of racially biased stop-and-frisk.

Max Herman/NurPhoto/Sipa via AP Images
This article appears in the Fall 2016 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . Criminal justice reform divides into two seemingly irreconcilable camps: Black Lives Matter versus blue lives matter. On one side are racial minorities—often led by women—and allied whites who acknowledge that having black or brown skin can be a death-dealing hazard. These individuals are exasperated about lethal police violence and the resultant lack of accountability. On the other side are cops and their apologists. They reject the idea of police bias, are bewildered at the energy minorities spend protesting police brutality (as opposed to in-group violence), and argue that the only kind of “reform” necessary should tilt toward police. Despite their sharp disagreements, there may be one issue on which these two groups might agree: the undesirability of quotas in police forces. By police quotas, I mean formal and informal measures that require police officers to...

Will Black Lives Matter to the Supreme Court?

Three cases provide cues on how the Court may handle race and criminal justice questions that are roiling the country.

(Photo: Flickr/Davis Staedtler)
One common theme in news stories about the current docket of cases before the Supreme Court is that they are boring , uncontroversial, and even “ sleepy .” Some analysts have concluded that the eight justices have avoided taking on blockbuster cases that may end up in a tie. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court recently heard three cases involving race and criminal justice that, while they aren’t the kind of attention-grabbing conflicts likely to inspire debates in cafes and college classrooms, could provide important guidance on where American jurisprudence may be headed on these issues. Since Ferguson, there has been sustained national attention on criminal justice reform. Rappers and athletes talk about the need for change; the video archive of black people killed by police grows every month; and the racial gap in confidence in the police continues to widen. The Court can ignore, address, or backpedal on policing—and any one of these choices can shape the...

Black Burdens, White Wages, and the Persistence of Economic Inequality

A new report finds that the racial wage gap has widened since 1979.

(Photo: Shutterstock)
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently announced that beginning in March 2018, the agency plans to require employers with 100 or more employees to provide wage data broken down by race, gender, and ethnicity. “Collecting data is a critical step in delivering on the promise of equal pay,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez said in statement. “Better data will not only help enforcement agencies do their work, but it helps employers to evaluate their own pay practices to prevent pay discrimination in their workplaces.” The EEOC move comes on the heels of a troubling Economic Policy Institute (EPI) report published in late September. The study analyzes wage data from 1979 through 2015 and splinters the narratives of African American economic progress often offered by the left and the right . EPI researchers found that rhapsodic accounts of black advancement can be misleading: The report documented that wage inequality is more acute today than it...