The New Jim Crow
Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
M I C H E L L E A L E X A N D E R
© 20 I 0, 201 2 by Michelle Alexander All rights reserved.
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Published in the United States by The New Press, New York, 2012 Distributed by Perseus Distribution
ISBN 978-1 - ) 9558-643·8 (pbk.)
The Library of Congress has cataloged the hardcover edition as follows: Alexander, Michelle. The new Jim Crow: mass incarceration in the age of colorblind ncss I Michelle Alexander. p. cm.
Includes bi biographical references, and index. ISBN 978-1-59558- 1 03-7 (he. : alk. paper) l. Criminal justice, Administration of---United States.
2. African American prisoners-- - United States. 3. Race discrimination- United States. 4. United States·-Race relations. I. Title. I IV9950J\437 2010
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" We may think we know how the criminal justice system works. Television is overloaded with fictional dramas about police, crime, and prosecutors shows such as Law & Order. These fictional dramas, like the evening news, tend to focus on individual stories of crime, victimization, and punishment, and the stories are typically told from the point of view of law enforcement. A charismatic police officer, investigator, or prosecutor struggles with his own demons while heroically trying to solve a horrible crime. He ultimately achieves a personal and moral victory by finding the bad guy and throwing him in jail. That is the made-for-lV version of the criminal justice system. It perpetuates the myth that the primary function of the system is to keep our streets safe and our homes secure by rooting out dangerous criminals and punishing them. These television shows, especially those that romanticize drug-law enforcement, are the modern-day equivalent of the old movies por traying happy slaves, the fictional gloss placed on a brutal system of racial ized oppression and control. Those who have been swept within the criminal justice system know that the way the system actually works bears little resemblance to what happens on television or in movies. Full-blown trials of guilt or innocence rarely oc cur; many people never even meet with an attorney; witnesses are routinely paid and coerced by the government; police regularly stop and search people for no reason whatsoever; penalties for many crimes are so severe that inno cent people plead guilty, accepting plea bargains to avoid harsh mandatory sentences; and children, even as young as fourteen, are sent to adult prisons. Rules of law and procedure, such as "guilt beyond a reasonable doubt" o "probable cause" or "reasonable suspicion," can easily be found in cou cases and law-school textbooks but are much harder to find in real life. In this chapter, we shall see how the system of mass incarceration actuall works. Our focus is the War on Drugs. The reason is simple: Convictions fo drug offenses are the single most important cause of the explosion in incar ceration rates in the United States. Drug offenses alone account for two-. thirds of the rise in the federal...
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