Documentaries

Focal Point: Lost Generation

Posted December 15, 2004 2:07 p.m. EST
Updated August 18, 2012 12:46 p.m. EDT

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.

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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