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November 30, 2011

"Racial Critiques of Mass Incarceration: Beyond the New Jim Crow"

The title of this post is the title of this new piece now available via SSRN from Professor James Forman Jr. Here is the abstract:

In the five decades since black Americans won their civil rights, hundreds of thousands have lost their liberty.  Blacks now make up a larger portion of the prison population than they did at the time of Brown v. Board of Education, and their lifetime risk of incarceration has doubled.  Mass incarceration’s racial dimensions have led an emerging group of scholars to call the American criminal justice system a new form of Jim Crow.  This Article examines the New Jim Crow analogy.  I begin by pointing out that the analogy is extraordinarily compelling in some respects — for example, the analogy effectively draws attention to the injustices created by a facially race-neutral system that severely ostracizes offenders and stigmatizes young, poor black men as criminals.

But despite its contributions, the Jim Crow analogy ultimately leads to a distorted view of mass incarceration.  First, the Jim Crow analogy oversimplifies the origins of mass incarceration by highlighting the role of politicians seeking to exploit racial fears while minimizing other historical factors.  Second, the analogy has too little to say about black attitudes towards crime and punishment, masking the nature and extent of black support for punitive crime policy.  Third, the analogy’s exclusive focus on the War on Drugs diverts our attention from violent crime — a troubling oversight given the toll that violence takes on low-income black communities and the fact that violent offenders make up a plurality of the prison population.  Fourth, the Jim Crow analogy obscures the fact that mass incarceration’s impact has been almost exclusively concentrated among the most disadvantaged African-Americans.  Fifth, the analogy draws our attention away from the harms that mass incarceration inflicts on other racial groups, including whites and Hispanics.  Finally, the analogy diminishes our understanding of the particular harms associated with the old Jim Crow.

November 30, 2011 at 02:58 PM | Permalink


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It's obvious from this article that Mr. Forman does believe that mass incarceration is a huge problem in America,and there are probably as many ways to address that problem as there are scholars and others concerned about it. So if Mr. Forman doesn't agree with the context in which Michelle Alexander presents this problem, it seems his time would be better spent, and the American public could become better informed if he presented the problem of mass incarceration from his viewpoint, instead of criticizing the way Ms. Alexander presented the problem. This is especially true since he and Mrs. Alexander appear to be on the same side. He could save the criticism for the proponents of mass incarceration, and there are many.

Posted by: msyoung | Nov 30, 2011 10:27:17 PM

All racial disparities in criminality, incarceration, victimization, are explained by one factor, caused by the feminist lawyer. Bastardy.

The feminist lawyer paid the black female to spawn bastards with massive welfare payments, contingent on excluding the father. Why? Fatherless bastards generate the necessity for massive government services starting from high rates of neonatal prematurity, costing a $ million in neonatal intensive care, through special education to long placements in prisons.

Before whites feel smug, the feminist lawyer is coming after the white family from all sides, including the recognition of homosexual marriage, making a mere contract like others, and the federalization of the collection of child support.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 1, 2011 2:44:53 AM

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