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The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

by Michelle Alexander

"We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it," declares Alexander (of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and the Moritz College of Law, both at Ohio State U.) as she sets forth the case that the old functions of Jim Crow--the legal exclusion of African Americans from civil rights to voting, housing, equal employment opportunities, etc.--are now accomplished through the mass incarceration and subsequent stripping of legal rights of black and brown people at rates that are far disproportionate to their participation in criminal activity. Mass incarceration, in its essence, creates and maintains racial hierarchy much as earlier systems of social control through "a tightly networked system of laws, policies, customs, and institutions that operate collectively to ensure the subordinate status of a group defined largely by race." She describes how the so-called "War on Drugs" operates to strip people of rights, shows how racial disparities in criminal justice outcomes are not explainable in terms of crime rates, demonstrates the systems of discrimination that face those released from prison, examines parallels between this system and the old Jim Crow system of legal discrimination, and challenges those who care about civil rights to come to grips with the implications of this new caste system. Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

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