Focal Point: Lost Generation

Posted December 15, 2004
Updated August 18, 2012

Original Air Date: Dec. 15, 2004

Black men make up about 10 percent of North Carolina's total population but account for nearly 60 percent of its prison population. Why do so many of our state's young black men end up behind bars?

"Lost Generation" examines the case of Dwight McLean -- a young man recently convicted of murder and now serving a life sentence in a North Carolina prison.

There are many theories as to why such a disproportionate number of young black men end up in prison. Some blame economics; some blame the loss of high-wage manufacturing jobs that allowed many black communities to thrive in the past. As those jobs disappeared, many of those communities became areas with high unemployment and poverty.

The result, according to some experts, is that black children started growing up in unstable families and communities with few positive role models, creating a cycle that has been repeated in subsequent generations.

This WRAL documentary reveals the common threads in McLean's story and those of so many of his peers who are also behind bars. It also examines potential solutions to the problem and looks at programs that are making a difference.

Focal Point: Lost Generation

By the Numbers

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, black men make up about 10 percent of North Carolina's total population but account for nearly 60 percent of its prison population. There are other numbers to consider:

  • In N.C., three times as many black children were in foster care in 2001 as were white children.
  • In 2003, 50.5 percent of black children lived with their mothers only while 17.5 percent of white males lived their mothers only.
  • In 2001, 67 percent more black children than white children were abused in N.C.
  • In the U.S., 48 percent of black male children lived with their mother only in 2003; 27% of white males did so.
  • Three times as many black grandparents as white grandparents are raising their grandchildren.
  • Twice as many black children are considered low-income as are white children.
  • A black male born in the U.S. in 2001 has a 32 percent chance of going to prison in his lifetime; a white male has a 6 percent chance. (U.S. Dept. of Justice)

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  • dmbmaurice Jan 24, 2007

    I continue to see why you are number one in the Triangle.This story really hit home with me because,not only am I an exoffender but have a 15yer. old son that is growing up in Southeast Raleigh.I never really had a father figure or a mother figure in my life I was alway moved from place to place with people i did not know and i was not even under foster care in did not go to schooland even when i was 9 or even 10 years old the most critical time of education i was not sent to schoollife was indeed brutial living on the streets and with anyone that would take you in for the night was truly risky Under these circumstances I tried to get into job core.the military or even prison just to be able to have a roof and food.Although it is sad it was the reality of a very hard and brutial.Now I talk with my son about staying in school and not following my foot steps.Now i have my GED and have just completed my first science fiction book and continue to work on my webpage.Oh by the way I've been