Free Republic
Browse · Search
Smoky Backroom
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Is mass incarceration the new caste system? (Yes, they mean just what you think they do)
The Bay State Banner ^ | April 19, 2012 | Caitlin Yoshiko Kandil

Posted on 04/19/2012 1:07:24 AM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet

After the dismantling of segregation nearly a half-century ago, African Americans have made tremendous strides: winning the right to vote, upward economic mobility and even the presidency. But alongside these achievements, something else happened — the prison population exploded.

In just 30 years, between 1980 and 2000, the number of U.S. prisoners skyrocketed from 300,000 to more than 2 million, most of them poor people of color. The United States now has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and imprisons a higher percentage of black people than South Africa did under apartheid.

This phenomenon, says law professor Michelle Alexander, has become the country’s newest racial caste system. In her award-winning book, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” Alexander explains how America’s criminal justice system is no longer a “system of crime prevention,” but one of “social and racial control,” similar to segregation in the South.

In an interview with the Banner, Alexander, who will be speaking in Cambridge next Wednesday at 6 p.m., discusses mass incarceration, the fallacy of colorblindness, Trayvon Martin, the “George Zimmerman-mindset” and more.

What do you mean when you say mass incarceration is the new Jim Crow?

It’s important for people to understand that the system of mass incarceration isn’t primarily a system of crime prevention and control. It has become in recent decades a system of social and racial control. I refer to it as the new Jim Crow because even in this age of Obama, even in this era of so-called colorblindness, we’ve managed to recreate something akin to a caste system.

Thanks largely to the war on drugs and the get-tough movement, millions of people — overwhelmingly poor people of color — have been swept into our criminal justice system mainly for nonviolent and drug offenses, branded criminals and felons.Then [they are] ushered into a parallel social universe in which they are stripped of many of the civil and human rights supposedly won in the Civil Rights Movement: the right to vote, the right to serve on juries, the right to be free from legal discrimination in employment, housing, access to education and public benefits.

Many of the old forms of discrimination that we supposedly left behind in the Jim Crow era are suddenly legal again once you’ve been branded a felon. That’s why I saw we haven’t ended racial caste in America — we’ve just redesigned it.

How did this happen?

One of the greatest myths about mass incarceration is that it’s been driven by crime and crime rates, when in fact our prison population has exploded — quintupled — in a period of a few short decades. We went from a prison population of about 300,000 in the 1970s and into the early 1980s, to now well over 2 million.

We now have the highest rates of incarceration in the world, a penal system unprecedented in world history, and this occurred in an astonishingly short period of time — a few short decades. During those decades, crime rates fluctuated. Today, crime rates are at historic lows, but incarceration rates, especially black incarceration rates, have consistently soared.

How has this racial caste system adapted to the colorblind or post-racial age, we supposedly live in today?

This system is colorblind on the surface. Our drug laws on the surface say nothing about race. Unlike the images of the old Jim Crow — the images of overt, latent bigotry and racism — this system has a colorblind veneer that is very seductive.

But the reality is that these colorblind laws, particularly our drug laws, are enforced in a grossly discriminatory manner. Even though studies have shown consistently now, for decades, that contrary to popular belief, people of color are no more likely to use or sell illegal drugs than whites, people of color have been arrested and incarcerated at grossly disproportionate rates. In some states, 80 to 90 percent of all drug offenders sent to prison have been one race — African American.

The drug war has defined as its enemy, folks primarily who live in impoverished, racially segregated, ghettoized communities. It is the people who live in those communities, and their children, who are targeted by the police for routine stops and frisks … [They] are subjected to tactics that would be met with outrage in middle-class white neighborhoods, or on college campuses, even though drugs are equally likely, or more likely, to be found there.

Does your argument apply to the way the United States has conducted the war on terror?

Unfortunately, many of the failed tactics that have been used in the war on drugs have been adapted in the war on terror. One of the important things for people to keep in mind is that you can’t declare a war on a thing, like drugs or terrorism. You declare war on people. In the drug war, the people who became the enemy were poor folks of color, living in ghettoized communities.

In the war on terrorism, a group of people we imagine to be the terrorists have been the targets of investigation and subjected to practices that many believe violate many of our basic constitutional principles and standards.

How does the Trayvon Martin case fit into this?

Even during the Jim Crow era, crimes committed against black people, whether by whites or by other black people, were deemed trivial. It was often very difficult to get any action to be taken on behalf of the victim in those kinds of cases, and that remains true to a large extent today. When this unarmed teenager was killed, law enforcement accepted, relatively uncritically, George Zimmerman’s explanation. They ran drug tests and a criminal background check on the victim, but did no such thing for the man who pulled the trigger.

What I’m concerned about, as all of the politics and the drama surrounding Trayvon Martin’s case plays out, is that we have demonized Zimmerman, rather than acknowledge that Zimmerman’s mindset, far from being unusual or aberrational, is absolutely normal and institutionalized within law enforcement itself.

If Zimmerman had had a badge with his gun, we wouldn’t even know Trayvon Martin’s name today. What Zimmerman did — view a young black teenager as a problem to be dealt with, confronted and controlled for no reason other than his race — is how police treat young black men every day in this country.

If Zimmerman had a badge with his gun, stopping, confronting and interrogating Trayvon about who he is and what he’s doing in that neighborhood, would have been perceived as perfectly normal. And if Trayvon had wound up dead in that encounter, people would have uncritically accepted the officer’s account of the event.

Although people are celebrating the second-degree murder charges that have been filed against Zimmerman, people fail to grasp that it’s not Zimmerman the man who’s the problem — it’s the Zimmerman mindset that infects our society as a whole, that we’ve given license to the police to institutionalize.

There was a tremendous outpouring of anger over the execution of Troy Davis last year. Do you think Americans are starting to understand what you’ve been talking about?

I do think people are waking up to the reality of how our criminal justice system functions. But I’m concerned that these moments of outrage will not prove transformational unless we begin to see these cases as expressions of something that is fundamentally wrong with our criminal justice system.

If we fail to connect the dots and probe more deeply, I think we’ll continue to see that these moments of outrage will subside and reemerge in cyclical fashion. So it’s my hope that through this tragedy, we begin to ask the bigger questions and begin to see that these cases aren’t aberrational, but are reflections of something much deeper that has gone wrong in our criminal justice system and our society itself.

******

Michelle Alexander will be speaking at Harvard Law School, 1585 Massachusetts Ave., on April 25 at 6 p.m.


TOPICS: Heated Discussion
KEYWORDS: georgezimmerman; racism; trayvonmartin; zimmerman
Every one of them were railroaded, I presume.
1 posted on 04/19/2012 1:07:32 AM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: 2ndDivisionVet

There is a problem here. Since the late 1960s....the United States has become a drug problem. Go and drug-test every guy you arrest for a year in any major urban area....the vast number (my humble opinion) will be over 80 percent failing a drug test. I won’t even say this is a racial issue anymore...you likely get the same numbers with every society.

I admit, the drug war is a failure. But the massive number of drug users in the American population....doesn’t measure up percentage-wise with what you have in France, Japan or Denmark. They don’t have mega-jails, because they just don’t have the same amount of crime going on.

There’s a problem in existence, but I doubt that we can ever get a handle on this.


2 posted on 04/19/2012 1:18:47 AM PDT by pepsionice
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: 2ndDivisionVet

The solution is simple - AG Holder could institute a “Fairness” quota system for prison residents.


3 posted on 04/19/2012 1:22:29 AM PDT by seton89 (Are the Ten Commandments a living document?)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: seton89

Mr. Obama could pardon every black incarcerated in the United States as one of his last acts in office. I could see him doing it, too.


4 posted on 04/19/2012 1:27:30 AM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet (Ich habe keinen Konig aber Gott)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: 2ndDivisionVet

Michelle Alexander - another person making a living off of race.


5 posted on 04/19/2012 1:28:31 AM PDT by pieceofthepuzzle
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: 2ndDivisionVet
Today, crime rates are at historic lows, but incarceration rates, especially black incarceration rates, have consistently soared.

Yes, when you incarcerate criminals, crime goes down. Also, 1+1=2.

6 posted on 04/19/2012 1:30:20 AM PDT by D Rider
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: 2ndDivisionVet

I guess it has nothing to do with who commits the crime it is only about race?Sorry don’t believe it.


8 posted on 04/19/2012 12:13:30 PM PDT by chris_bdba
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: 2ndDivisionVet

Seems like half the folks on this board want to lock up people for possession of a plant. Those folks are actually part of the problem, such as it is.

Prison should be solely for those who commit violent crimes or victimize others through theft, force or fraud.


9 posted on 04/19/2012 12:18:07 PM PDT by Larry Lucido
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: 2ndDivisionVet

“Caitlin Yoshiko Kandil” i.e. “Moron”


10 posted on 04/19/2012 12:19:59 PM PDT by Psycho_Bunny (Burning the Quran is a waste of perfectly good fire.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: 2ndDivisionVet

Do the crime, serve the time. Justice should be color blind. BTW, there is no such thing as a “love crime”, so every crime is a “hate crime”. The burgeoning prison population IS a problem - what this country needs is a penal colony like Devil’s Island.


11 posted on 04/19/2012 12:20:59 PM PDT by TexasRepublic (Socialism is the gospel of envy and the religion of thieves)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: 2ndDivisionVet

The obvious solution to this horrific problem (and I’m going to waive my usual exorbitant consultant’s fee for this one! You’re welcome!) is for “poor people of color” to STOP DOING SO DAMN MANY CRIMES!

Honestly, how hard is that to figure out??!?


12 posted on 04/19/2012 12:23:06 PM PDT by Nervous Tick (Trust in God, but row away from the rocks!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: D Rider
Yes, when you incarcerate criminals, crime goes down. Also, 1+1=2.

Speaking of math, from the story:

In just 30 years, between 1980 and 2000...

Is it me, or is that 20 years?

CA....

13 posted on 04/19/2012 12:24:13 PM PDT by Chances Are (Seems I've found that silly grin again....)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: Larry Lucido

“Seems like half the folks on this board want to lock up people for possession of a plant.”

Never mind the drug, it is the crime committed to obtain the drug or the crime committed under influence of the drug that should be prosecuted.


14 posted on 04/19/2012 12:24:19 PM PDT by TexasRepublic (Socialism is the gospel of envy and the religion of thieves)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: Larry Lucido
Seems like half the folks on this board want to lock up people for possession of a plant. Those folks are actually part of the problem, such as it is. Prison should be solely for those who commit violent crimes or victimize others through theft, force or fraud.

I don't think that the article author wants to legalize drugs. If all sorts of drugs were available in the local liquor store under the same conditions as buying alcohol, he would be running around screaming about "our young men being destroyed by the easy availability of heroin and cocaine!"

No, what he wants is for the drug dealers to be able to continue their occupations, just with police no longer hassling them for it.

15 posted on 04/19/2012 12:27:39 PM PDT by PapaBear3625 (In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. - George Orwell)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: 2ndDivisionVet
Gee, it couldn't be a result of their BEHAVIOR, could it???
16 posted on 04/19/2012 12:27:52 PM PDT by JimRed (Excising a cancer before it kills us waters the Tree of Liberty! TERM LIMITS, NOW AND FOREVER!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: 2ndDivisionVet

Maybe, if African-Americans stopped breaking the law, there wouldn’t be so many of them in prison.

Just a thought.


17 posted on 04/19/2012 12:32:54 PM PDT by Arm_Bears (Journalists first; then lawyers.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: 2ndDivisionVet
What seems to be lacking here is a good old-fashioned study of 'first causes'.

How about we look back at government policies dating back to the '60's that destroyed the black family unit. If you're looking for the first cause of the epidemic of crime in certain racial groups, let's start there.

18 posted on 04/19/2012 12:34:13 PM PDT by Quality_Not_Quantity (A half-truth masquerading as the whole truth becomes a complete untruth. (J.I. Packer)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: 2ndDivisionVet

If this is a matter of racism, this it should be pretty easy to confirm or rebut. Check the percentage of black Caribbean and African immigrants imprisoned, compared to that of the native black population. I’m going to wager that it isn’t anywhere near as high.


19 posted on 04/19/2012 12:35:51 PM PDT by JerseyanExile
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: 2ndDivisionVet

"QUIT BREAKING THE LAW, A**HOLE!!!" -- Jim Carrey, in "Liar Liar."

20 posted on 04/19/2012 12:40:57 PM PDT by Maceman (Liberals' only problem with American slavery is that the slaves were privately owned.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: 2ndDivisionVet

>>>Thanks largely to the war on drugs and the get-tough movement, millions of people — overwhelmingly poor people of color — have been swept into our criminal justice system mainly for nonviolent and drug offenses, branded criminals and felons.<<<

This is an outright lie.

In 2009, the most recent data available, 53% of state
prison inmates were serving time for violent offenses,
19% for property, 18% for drug, and 9% for public order
offenses.

http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/p10.pdf

Only 18% of State inmates are in for drugs. 72% are in for either violent or property crimes.

The writer’s conflating of “drug and non-violent crimes” is also very deceptive. If I break into your house, ransack the place and steal all of your valuables that is a “non-violent crime”. If I steal 12 cars and sell them to chop shops, those are all “non-violent crimes” as well.

Besides that, I’d be willing to be that a good percentage of inmates, in for drugs, have also committed violent or proprety crimes, but were only caught and convicted on the drug crimes. It is a lot easier to catch a guy who makes his living as an armed robber or burgular, with a bag of illegal drugs in his car, than it is to connect him to his violent and property crimes and prove in court that he committed them.

With the exception of a few politically incorrect “crimes” our nation tries WAY too hard to keep people OUT of jail. Most inmates who are in for all but the most serious crimes, have been given multiple chances with probation or various programs before finally being sent to prison. There are FAR more people walkng the streets, who deserve to be in prison than vice versa.

I’d love to see some of these racist, Liberal whackos go live in a prison for a year with these “victims” of our criminal justice system and THEN tell us which ones they think shouldn’t be there.


21 posted on 04/19/2012 12:41:38 PM PDT by Above My Pay Grade (The candidate I vote for will NOT have a CARE after his name.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: 2ndDivisionVet
....people of color have been arrested and incarcerated at grossly disproportionate rates.

Seen "The Sunset Limited"?

Samuel Jacksons character....."...I didn't see no African Americans or People of Color in there, just a bunch of *******"

Seems to fit this narrative.

22 posted on 04/19/2012 12:42:47 PM PDT by Envisioning (Call me a racist........, one more time..........)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: 2ndDivisionVet

>>>Today, crime rates are at historic lows, but incarceration rates, especially black incarceration rates, have consistently soared. <<<

So when more criminals are incarcerated, crime rates decrease? Who would’ve thunk it?!

The idea that black Americans should have a chance to live in safe neighborhoods, with the thugs removed and other potential thugs deterred by the threat of prison, is abhorrent to these racist, Liberals.

Whether they realize it or not, nobody hates black people more (regardless or their skin color) than the individual who wants law-abiding black people surrounded, terrorized and victimized by more criminals, rather than incarcerating those criminals.


23 posted on 04/19/2012 12:49:55 PM PDT by Above My Pay Grade (The candidate I vote for will NOT have a CARE after his name.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: PapaBear3625

“If all sorts of drugs were available in the local liquor store under the same conditions as buying alcohol,” there would be more armed robberies of liquor stores.

Maybe they could just quit committing felonies? Nah, too simplistic.


24 posted on 04/19/2012 12:53:35 PM PDT by Silentgypsy
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 15 | View Replies]

To: 2ndDivisionVet

Oh boy, here we go.....

What is known and scientifically established is the drop in the crime rate associated with the increased incarceration rate.


25 posted on 04/19/2012 12:57:22 PM PDT by Hostage (Be Breitbart!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Larry Lucido

>> Prison should be solely for those who commit violent crimes or victimize others through theft, force or fraud.

...whereas mere *poverty* should be for those who smoke themselves stupid.

“Mom! I’m out of underwear again, can ya bring some down to my room?”

Works for me! But don’t expect me to pay for their food stamps when they get the munchies.

:-)


26 posted on 04/19/2012 12:57:58 PM PDT by Nervous Tick (Trust in God, but row away from the rocks!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: 2ndDivisionVet

Thanks to liberal, Democrat welfare policies that destroyed the black family.


27 posted on 04/19/2012 1:12:26 PM PDT by WestwardHo
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Arm_Bears
Maybe, if African-Americans stopped breaking the law, there wouldn’t be so many of them in prison.

Just a thought.


28 posted on 04/19/2012 1:19:51 PM PDT by USS Alaska (Nuke the terrorists savages.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 17 | View Replies]

To: 2ndDivisionVet
Mr. Obama could pardon every black incarcerated in the United States as one of his last acts in office. I could see him doing it, too.

No he couldn't. The vast majority of prisoners in the United States, regardless of race, are people convicted of state crimes. The President cannot issue pardons for state crimes, only Federal.

29 posted on 04/19/2012 1:23:00 PM PDT by Conscience of a Conservative
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: 2ndDivisionVet

Gee, I wonder why?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8Wcto03dOQ&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6jsX0OYhO0A&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkfbh9fTjsk&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KM8gfrxQlMo&feature=BFa&list=UUL1uxjHTP1rpF6DRLrVZjeQ&lf=plcp

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e52-Vx5PMCQ&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvPMv0TKNII&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ZABR2ZVIII&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOawlnp6ICA&feature=related


30 posted on 04/19/2012 1:23:07 PM PDT by Dogbert41 ("...or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. " -Jesus)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: JerseyanExile

Great Point! I will tentavively say that you are correct and that a study will find that 1st generation black immigrants are not incarcerated at the same level.

This means that the powers that be will never let a study like this happen.


31 posted on 04/19/2012 11:30:54 AM PDT by Sergio (An object at rest cannot be stopped! - The Evil Midnight Bomber What Bombs at Midnight)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 19 | View Replies]

To: 2ndDivisionVet; Chances Are
In just 30 years, between 1980 and 2000,

I stopped reading right there.

32 posted on 04/19/2012 4:23:14 PM PDT by ShorelineMike (Constituo, ergo sum.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: pepsionice
the massive number of drug users in the American population....doesn’t measure up percentage-wise with what you have in France, Japan or Denmark.

That certainly must bear some relationship with the fact that France, Denmark, and Japan don't have young people. The elderly are less likely to use recreational drugs; and countries with column-shaped demographic pyramids surely must have less drug users as a result - along with for that matter having fewer violent criminals, using similar arguments.

33 posted on 04/19/2012 9:37:27 PM PDT by eclecticEel (Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: 7/4/1776 - 3/21/2010)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: 2ndDivisionVet

SDWW (Self Defense While White) The new hate crime.


34 posted on 04/21/2012 1:46:59 PM PDT by Eagles6
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: 2ndDivisionVet

The Bay State Banner is an unapologetic Maoist rag.


35 posted on 04/28/2012 6:02:29 PM PDT by Gay State Conservative (Unlike Mrs Obama,I've Been Proud Of This Country My *Entire* Life!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Above My Pay Grade

Yep. What you said.


36 posted on 05/13/2012 5:37:22 AM PDT by Eagles6 (S)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 21 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Smoky Backroom
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson