Pubdate: Wed, 02 Mar 2011 Source: Macon Telegraph (GA) Copyright: 2011 The Macon Telegraph Publishing Company Contact: http://www.macontelegraph.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/667 Author: Catherine Meeks, Ph.D., Columnist 'THE NEW JIM CROW' "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the age of Colorblindness" by Michelle Alexander, professor of law at the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, "is written for people who care deeply about racial justice but who, for any number of reasons, do not yet appreciate the magnitude of the crisis faced by communities of color as a result of mass incarceration.... as well as people who have been struggling to persuade their friends, neighbors, relatives, teachers, co-workers, or political representatives that something is eerily familiar about the way our criminal justice system operates. Also for all those trapped within America's latest caste system. You may be locked up or locked out of mainstream society, but you are not forgotten." This is a part of the preface to this very thought provoking book which argues that the criminal justice system represents a new form of Jim Crow, because it serves the purpose of controlling African Americans and other people of color in the same manner as the earlier system of Jim Crow. In the introduction Alexander begins with the story of Jarvious Cotton. "Like his father, grandfather, great-grandfather, great-great-grandfather, he is denied the right to participate in our electoral democracy. Cotton's family tree tells the story of several generations of black men who were born in the United States but who were denied the most basic freedom that democracy promises -- the freedom to vote for those who will make the rules and laws to govern your life. Cotton's great-great grandfather could not vote because he was a slave, his great-grandfather was beaten to death by the Ku Klux Klan for attempting to vote. His grandfather was prohibited from voting by Klan intimidation, his father was barred from voting by literacy tests and poll taxes. Today Jarvious Cotton cannot vote because he, like many black men in the United States, has been labeled a felon and is on parole." Of course we know that being labeled as a felon impacts employment, housing, education, public benefits and jury service, which was the plight of the earlier generations who came before this incarcerated generation. Alexander convincingly argues that it was the Reagan administration's "War on Drugs" that presented an organized public relations campaign that created the story of drug criminals and users as African Americans and other people of color. It is very interesting to think about the fact that illegal drug use was actually on the decline when the "War on Drugs" was introduced, and that some criminologists thought that the trend in the country was moving away from having so many prisons. But the War on Drugs completely changed that picture. In recent years the CIA has admitted that it blocked the investigation into illegal drug networks that were helping to fund its covert war in Nicaragua. Though many theories have been voiced in recent years about the CIA introduction of crack cocaine into African American communities, the CIA has not spoken about this issue. But one has to note that crack cocaine appeared in those communities after the War on Drugs had begun. The War on Drugs helped to swell the prison rolls from 300,000 to more than 2 million. We now have the highest rate of incarceration in the world and we imprison a larger percentage of our black population than South Africa did at the height of apartheid. This book helps to provide a better foundation for understanding the work of the prison industrial complex in our country which often bases its projected prison construction upon the failure rate of third graders, and why we have a school to prison pipeline. Though each person has to take responsibility for their behavior, we need to think of getting our collective heads out of the sand regarding the systemic forces that support our problem of mass incarceration. - --- MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.