the new jim crow
04/14/2010 § 5 Comments
michelle alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness.
as a prison abolitionist, the crisis of racialized policing and mass incarceration is probably the issue that strikes most deeply at my emotional-political core. since starting this blog, i haven’t been able to muster the energy to write on the topic. probably because it feels too much like work and also because the task of succinct articulation is so overwhelming. but ive decided to broach it by sharing alexander’s provocative thesis: mass incarceration = modern day jim crow, and let her do the talking.
ive gathered some “prison stats 101” to supplement, and for future reference on the subject:
prison growth: between 1970 and the present, the US prison population has grown from about 250,000 state and federal prisoners to over 2.3 million prisoners.
non-violent offenders: between 1978 and 1996, 77% of the growth in intake to America’s state and federal prisons was accounted for by nonviolent offenders (Irwin et. al. 2000, 136).
drug war: in 1980, there were about 40,000 people incarcerated for drug crimes. today there are almost 500,000.
racialization of drug crimes: about 13% of people of all races in the US use illicit drugs. no race has a significantly higher percentage of drug users. african americans make up about 12.2% of the US population. but nearly 35% of all drug arrests are of black people. of those convicted of drug crimes, approximately 50% are black. of those sentenced to prison, over 65% are black (Donziger 1996).
30% of black men in the US will experience incarceration. 1 in every 6 black men and 1 in every 13 latino men are current or former prisoners, while the rate for white men is 1 in 38.
these stats begin to reveal the contours of the american criminal justice system.
future topics of interest: what is prison abolition?; post-industrial capitalism and mass incarceration; the militarization of police; long-term solitary confinement as inhumane punishment; why sexual violence is promoted by guards; restorative justice as an alternative; drug legalization; harm reduction in substance abuse; criminal record based discrimination; school to prison pipeline; the privatization of prisons; etc