“The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander

THINKING ABOUT RACE (April 2011)   According to a carefully researched book by Michelle Alexander, the rates of use and traffic in illegal drugs are roughly equal among white, blacks and Latinos.  Yet by 2004, three-fourths of all persons imprisoned in the US for drug offenses were blacks or Latinos. Since, in most jurisdictions, it is legal to deny voting rights and employment to persons convicted of serious drug offenses, she argues that the mass incarceration of blacks and Latinos has created a new caste system from which our society makes it very difficult to escape even after release from incarceration. The book is The New Jim Crow—Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New York: The New Press, 2010).

Alexander’s work has added credibility because it was written with the involvement of a person with considerable experience in the area who disagrees with her conclusions.  She writes:

My husband, Carter Stewart, has been my rock. Without ever once uttering a word of complaint, he has read and reread drafts and rearranged his schedule countless times to care for our children, so that I could make progress with my writing. As a federal prosecutor, he does not share my views about the criminal justice system, but his different worldview has not, even for a moment, compromised his ability to support me, lovingly, at every turn in my efforts to share my truth.

The Baltimore Yearly Meeting Working Group on Racism meets most months on the third Saturday from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, usually at Bethesda Friends Meeting or Friends Meeting of Washington.  If you would like to attend, either on a regular or a drop-in basis, please contact clerk Elizabeth DuVerlie at eduverlie@jhu.edu.

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