UFPPC (www.ufppc.org) Digging Deeper CL: February 14, 2011, 7:00 p.m.

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New York & London: The New Press, January 2010. [Thesis. The war on drugs has given birth to a permanent, mostly race-based underclass in the U.S.; we need a national discussion of the criminal justice system's role in creating and perpetuating this system.] Acknowledgments. Written while bringing up three recently born children (ix). Dean, family, incarcerated correspondents, the Open Society Institute, friends, students, parents (xixi). Preface. This book was written for those unaware of "the magnitude of the crisis faced by communities of color as a result of mass incarceration" (xiii). Introduction. "An extraordinary percentage of black men in the United States are legally barred from voting today, just as they have been throughout most of American history" (1). "Rather than rely on race, we use our criminal justice system to label people of color 'criminals' and then engage in all the practices we supposedly left behind" (2). Resistance to this notion (2-3). Idea first encountered when she saw the sign of "[s]ome radical group" in California, but rejected it intellectually (3). Work for the ACLU changed her mind (4). The war on drugs cannot explain the "racial dimension of mass incarceration" (6; 47). Incarceration is not a response to crime (7-8). "[F]or reasons largely unrelated to actual crime trends, the American penal system has emerged as a system of social control unparalleled in world history" (8). African American leaders have are not attending to "the crisis at hand" (11; 9-12). Though this book does not engage the sociological debate on the nature of caste, it does use the term racial caste for "a stigmatized racial group locked into an inferior position by law and custom" (12). The criminal justice system can be thought of as "a gateway into a much larger system of racial stigmatization and permanent marginalization," viz. "mass incarceration" (12). "The term mass incarceration refers not only to the criminal justice system but also to the larger web or laws, rules, policies, and customs that control those labeled criminals both in and out of prison. Once released, former prisoners enter a hidden underworld of legalized discrimination and permanent social exclusion. They are members of America's new undercaste" (13). Despite the American myth of potential mobility, "a huge percentage [of African Americans] are not free to move up at all" (13). Addressing the problem requires recognizing its nature, despite resistance (14-15). Outline (16-19). Ch. 1: The Rebirth of Caste. The current system is a successor to others: slavery, then Jim Crow (20-22). The need for plantation labor was the chief driver of slavery, which emerged by the 1770s from a system of indentured servitude (22-25). The structure of the United States Constitution was a device needed to protect the institution of slavery (2526). The post-Civil War crisis of Southern society (26-30). First convict laws, then segregation laws were designed to subvert the Populist attack on corporations, disenfranchising blacks and discriminating against them in every sphere of life; this system became known as "Jim Crow" (30-35). The downfall of Jim Crow (35-38). When the Civil Rights movement turned toward economic justice, a "search for a new racial order" began (38-40). The notion of "law and order," which dated from the late 1950s

in the South, was its central element and was adopted by Republicans vying for power, reaching its full development in Ronald Reagan (40-49). The war on drugs was central (49-53). Racially coded get-tough-on-crime policies were adopted by Clinton and other Democrats; law enforcement budgets and prison populations soared (53-57). Ch. 2: The Lockdown. Popular notions of how the criminal justice system works are wrong (58-59). Few legal rules restrain police in an escalating War on Drugs, which tripled drug arrests from 1980 to 2005 (60-77). New forfeiture laws incentivized it by allowing state and local authorities to keep seized property (77-83). Many of those arrested get no legal representation, and "[a]lmost no one ever goes to trial," thanks to pressures to plea-bargain (2%-5% of those currently in prison are innocent) (85; 83-88). Harsh mandatory sentencing laws (88-91). Though crime rates have not changed, the prison population has increased from 350,000 to 2,300,000 in 25 years, chiefly through harsh sentencing (92). The prison label, not prison time, is the heart of the system (92). The proportion of those in prison for parole violation has increased from 1% to 35% since 1980 (93). "In this system of control, failing to cope well with one's exile is treated like a crime" (93; 93-94). Ch. 3: The Color of Justice. Examples (95-96). Though racial groups use and sell drugs "at remarkably similar rates," the incarceration rate for African Americans "dwarfs the rate of whites" (96; 96-98). Violent crime is blamed, but "violent crime is not responsible for the prison boom" (99). "It is the genius of the new system of control that it can always be defended on nonracial grounds" (100). The racial result is produced by granting law enforcement extraordinary discretion (101-06) and making (under McCleskey v. Kemp [481

U.S. 279 (1987), "petitioner must prove that the decisionmakers in his case acted with discriminatory purpose"]) specific intent a requirement of challenging claims of racial discrimination (106-12). Discretion is granted at every stage of the legal system, particularly prosecutorial discretion (112-16), jury selection (116-20), policing (law enforcement in ghetto communities has been militarized) (120-24). A 2002 study of Seattle by UW researches showed "untrue stereotypes" create high arrest rates of African Americans (124-25). Yet barriers to legal challenges to the system are almost insurmountable (125-28). "The dirty little secret of policing is that the Supreme Court has actually granted the police license to discriminate" (128; 128-33): Alexander v. Sandoval [532 U.S. 275 (2001)] eliminated challenges to the system by ruling that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not allow victims of discrimination to sue under the law; only the federal government can (134-36). Ch. 4: The Cruel Hand. Defendants are not told a guilty plea will cause permanent disenfranchisement and discrimination (137-41). Housing (14145). Employment (145-50). Released prisoners are often saddled with debt (150-52). Denial of public assistance (152-53). Loss of voting rights (153-56). Shame and stigma (156-60). Imprisonment is often a taboo subject in communities of color and is kept secret (161-64). Gangsta rap is a coping strategy, not something abnormal (16467). "The worst of gangsta rap . . . is best understood as a modern-day minstrel show . . . a for-profit display of the worst racial stereotypes and images associated with the era of mass incarceration" (168; 168-72). Ch. 5: The New Jim Crow. Obama's 2008 Father's Day speech (173-76). Where black fathers have gone is no mystery—they're locked up—but society

misunderstands how the system works (176-80). It has created a form of legalized discrimination (with three phases: roundup, conviction, invisible punishment) in which "extraordinary numbers of black men are forced into the cage," with the worst effects on the young (180; 180-85). Parallels with Jim Crow include political disenfranchisement, exclusion from juries, segregation, and the "symbolic production of race" (192; 185-95). Unlike Jim Crow, mass incarceration warehouses rather than exploits a population; also it operates without overt racial hostility, affects a certain number of whites, and is supported by a certain number of blacks (195-208). Ch. 6: The Fire This Time. A major social movement is needed to dismantle the new caste system, yet "the civil rights community" is awkwardly silent on the issue (209-14). Reflections on strategy (214-17). Suggestions: criminal justice reform alone is futile (217-24); the racial nature of the system must be directly addressed (224-27); colorblindness itself should be abandoned as a goal, because "colorblindness has proved catastrophic for African Americans" (228; 227-31). "[R]acial differences will always exist among us" (230). We should ask to what extent affirmative action has constituted a "racial bribe" that has helped make mass incarceration "largely invisible" as it has helped foster counterproductive myths and tactics (231-38). Obama's presidency is making it easier, not harder, to ignore the problem (238-41). It may be time to "shift from a civil rights

to a human rights paradigm," as King was doing in 1968 (245; 242-48). Notes. 30 pp. Index. 10 pp. About the Author. Michelle Alexander teaches at Ohio State Univ. In 2005 she was awarded a Soros Justice Fellowship. Prior to this, she was director of the Racial Justice Project at the ACLU of Northern California, director of the Civil Rights Clinics at Stanford Law School. She clerked at the Supreme Court for Justice Harry Blackmun. [Additional information. Michelle Alexander holds a B.A. from Vanderbilt and a J.D. from Stanford Law School.] [Critique. The New Jim Crow makes a strong case that mass incarceration is a form of racial control despite its formal colorblindness. French sociologist Loïc Wacquant, a student of Pierre Bourdieu, is a major conceptual influence. Michelle Alexander's book has been well reviewed on the left, but, sad to say, little noticed elsewhere (no mention yet in the New York Times, even by Bob Herbert). — Michelle Alexander is deliberately provocative ("Today mass incarceration defines the meaning of blackness in America" [192]); her final chapter challenges a number of sacred cows of civil rights advocacy. — In an apparent paradox, Alexander asserts both that society will never overcome the race problem and that a paradigm shift from civil rights to human rights is needed.]

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