Mar 13, 2011

Recommended Reading: THE NEW JIM CROW

Marian Wright Edelman, in an article posted to the Huffington Post, discusses Michelle Alexander’s extraordinary book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, a devastating look at how the Prison-Industrial system of American corporations have succeeded in maintaining mass enslavement of African Americans a century and half after slavery. The book documents in painstaking detail how the media's demonization of African Americans and minorities, aided by unjust sentencing laws that prescribe overly harsh sentences for even minor offences by blacks, have led to a "Cradle to Prison" pipeline that overwhelmingly delivers American Blacks and Hispanics to corporate prisons, where their labor is exploited with practically no compensation. Edelman notes that
as The New Jim Crow clearly shows, the dramatic increases in mandatory sentence lengths even for nonviolent offenses and the far-reaching consequences that come with being classified as a felon even after a sentence is completed have made incarceration today a historically punitive form of social control and social death—at exactly the same time as record numbers of African Americans are being confined. This is how mass incarceration functions as the new Jim Crow, with predictably destructive results for Black communities and families.
The most outrageous aspect of this process is that corporate prisons are increasing exponentially and while the government spends very little to improve the well-being of African American populations at risk in their impoverished enclaves, it is willing to spend upwards of $40,000 a year (paid directly to the corporations that own these prisons) to imprison each person for a year. The destruction of individual lives and communities that ensures literally ensures that African Americans are a doomed population (if your very existence is criminalized, it is only a matter of time before the majority of black people are co-opted by the prison-industrial complex: even those who manage to stay out of jail end up bled of their resources to support relatives who end up in prison).

The mass incarceration of African Americans is a form of genocide and should be treated as such. If young black males cannot escape the specter of slavery almost two centuries after chattel slavery was abolished, can we truthfully say we've made any progress in race relations since that time?