Pubdate: Fri, 16 Mar 2012
Source: Miami Herald (FL)
Copyright: 2012 Miami Herald Media Co.
Author: Carissa Harris, Miami Herald Staff


A crowd of avid readers packed Books & Books in Coral Gables Thursday 
night for a lively discussion with Miami Herald columnist Leonard 
Pitts, Jr. and book author Michelle Alexander on a thorny subject: 
similarities between today's "profiling" of blacks who end up behind 
bars and the Jim Crow era.

"In the era of mass incarceration what it means to be a criminal in 
our collective consciousness has become conflated with what it means 
to be black," Pitts read to the audience. "So the term white criminal 
is confounding while the term black criminal is merely redundant."

The quote, along with many other statistics and case studies from 
Alexander's book, "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of 
Color Blindness" is what had many late-comers standing for a chance 
to hear Alexander's take on this issue.

"This is a crisis that we have in the state and in the country and 
people are so slowly coming to understand it," said Howard Simon, 
executive director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. 
"It is a ticking time bomb in the explosion of the prison population."

The question and answer session with Pitts and Alexander served as a 
way to raise awareness among community leaders, students and residents.

"I'm hoping that people can have the same awakening that I had and 
that the book can be a tool for consciousness raising," Alexander said.

Although many of the attendees were already aware of the national 
crisis, the thought-provoking discussion reassured and reminded many 
of its severity.

"What hit me tonight was the whole notion that young children are 
being incarcerated as adults," said University of Miami professor 
Patti Rose. "I always knew that it was happening, but hearing her 
describe it tonight really impacted me." 
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