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

4.47  ·  Rating Details ·  23,012 Ratings  ·  2,976 Reviews
"As the United States celebrates the nation's 'triumph over race' with the election of Barack Obama, the majority of young black men in major American cities are locked behind bars or have been labeled felons for life. Although Jim Crow laws have been wiped off the books, an astounding percentage of the African American community remains trapped in a subordinate status -- ...more
Hardcover, 290 pages
Published January 5th 2010 by The New Press
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Jacqueline Hendricks Crimes for which others are not charged. Public interference by standing on a sidewalk. Supreme Court Judge Robert Jackson said in 1940: Federal Laws…moreCrimes for which others are not charged. Public interference by standing on a sidewalk. Supreme Court Judge Robert Jackson said in 1940: Federal Laws are so voluminous and unfathomable that prosecutors can easily pick the man and find the crime rather than vice versa. And so they do until we have the highest incarceration rate in the world. Driving while black is another.(less)
Meredith Try the book, "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness" by Michelle Alexander.
While it doesn't deal with just the poverty…more
Try the book, "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness" by Michelle Alexander.
While it doesn't deal with just the poverty movement, it made me see that anything to do with that movement will also have to address this issue. This is such a good book! I was totally blown away with Michelle Alexander's writing, one of those authors that's just hard to put down. Very informative and deals with so many issues that are tied into this.(less)

Community Reviews

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Bill  Kerwin
May 05, 2016 Bill Kerwin rated it really liked it
Shelves: black-studies
Early this February, a powerful article appeared in The Nation: “Why Hillary Clinton Doesn't Deserve the Black Vote.” The name of its author—Michelle Alexander—struck me as familiar. Then I realized she was the Ohio State law professor who had caused some stir five years ago with her book The New Jim Crow, a book which demonstrated how our criminal justice system was in effect little more than a system of racial oppression.

Alexander has the credentials and the experience to know whereof she spea
...more
Judith
Jun 11, 2011 Judith rated it it was amazing
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander will pick up your everyday white liberal guilt, tie it in knots, and leave you wondering how you could have ever been so simple-minded as to think colorblindness was benign, let alone desirable. While the “War on Drugs,” hopped up on federal funds and confiscated property, is systematically exploiting African American neighborhoods to supply the ever-growing prison industry with human beings to incarcerate, t ...more
Julie
1988. English 201. I was a college freshman, required to write a paper about fads vs. trends. For reasons I cannot recall, I chose to write about the War on Drugs. I can’t recall anything about the paper, either, though I can still see the “This Is Your Brain On Drugs” commercial that was rolled out in 1987 by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. Washington D. C. was embroiled in the Iran-Contra Affair. It was an election year. Perestroika had just begun rolling off western tongues. Benazir ...more
Hadrian
When the United States now has a prison population of nearly the same size and proportion as Stalinist Russia during the Great Purges, you know there's something deeply wrong with this country. (We have 760 per 100,000, the Soviets had ~800.) 1.6 million people out of 300 million are in prison today in America (The Gulag held 1.7 million in 1953). That's more than all of Hawaii. This population includes almost 100,000 minors, and even an increasing proportion of the elderly.

How did this happen?
...more
Lumumba Shakur
It is Michelle Alexander's experience as a lawyer which makes this such a successful piece. It is not novelty that makes this book so profound, but the authority upon which the argument is made: simple statistics and inarguable facts. In the very beginning, Mrs. Alexander states for whom this book was written: people who have a hard time convincing friends, neighbors and others that there is something oddly familiar with the current order. She has done this perfectly and thus I highly recommend ...more
T Hamboyan Harrison
Mar 28, 2012 T Hamboyan Harrison rated it it was amazing
No, black people aren't the majority in our American prisons because they're more likely to commit crimes. They're there because the "War on Drugs" has been applied to them more frequently than any other racial group.

Give a damn, people. Read this book and stop lying to yourselves.
Esil
Jul 19, 2016 Esil rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook
5 stars for in depth, persuasive and eye opening analysis of complex and important issues. In The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander argues that the war on drugs and its consequent incarceration of a disproportionate number of black American men amounts to a new form of racialized social control akin to the Jim Crow laws. She does an extraordinary job reviewing history, the different branches of the legal system, and the economic, social and political circumstances of black Americans today. She do ...more
Carol
Feb 20, 2017 Carol rated it really liked it
The New Jim Crow is essential reading for Americans who don't or haven't followed these issues closely over the last 30 years. It's a well-organized, thoughtful, accessible read - neither too light or too cluttered with footnotes. If you have followed the reasons for and impacts of the US approach to incarceration on the African-American community (and be honest with yourself on whether you've read a few WashingtonPost or Atlantic Magazine articles from time to time or really dug in over time on ...more
Lady Jane
Mar 19, 2011 Lady Jane added it
Shelves: non-fiction
The content of this book is so disturbing that I had to take a break from reading it for a week or so. I am still trying to absorb and synthesize the information. I will return later to re-read the last chapter. It is a powerful read, well worth the time and emotional energy.
I live in a city where I can bike a few miles, cross a few neighborhoods and see the divides between the rich, middle-class and poor. I live in a city with a stop-and-frisk policy that unfairly targets African-Americans. I
...more
Christopher
Mar 27, 2014 Christopher rated it it was amazing
I don't even know where to start. I'm not a political type of guy. I generally strive to avoid any political discourse with friends, family, or strangers. I've never picketed or protested or sat in. I mostly want to mind my own business.

But every now and then a portrayal of injustice smacks me upside the head, rattles by brains around a bit, and I'm shaken out of my apathy. I realize that not everyone was born with a shiny, silver spoon in his mouth like me. No, no, in fact, I'm among the most
...more
Thomas
One of the most important books I have ever read. With eloquence, passion, and careful research, Michelle Alexander shows how slavery in the United States has not disappeared - it has just changed shape, into the mass incarceration of black men. Among many formidable arguments, Alexander emphasizes the importance of doing away with the notion of colorblindness and how we need to see race more than ever. A quote that highlights her point:

"In the era of colorblindness, it is no longer socially per
...more
Vannessa Anderson
Feb 29, 2012 Vannessa Anderson rated it it was amazing
"... I came to see that mass incarceration in the United States had, in fact, emerged as a stunningly comprehensive and well-disguised system of racialized social control that functions in a manner strikingly similar to Jim Crow."

"… Once they are released, they are often denied the right to vote, excluded from juries, and relegated to a racially segregated and subordinated existence. Through a web of laws, regulations, and informal rules, all of which are powerfully reinforced by social stigma,
...more
Rejena
Apr 17, 2013 Rejena rated it liked it
I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, it's a well researched compilation of the history of mass incarceration (it's swelling size in particular) and race in all aspects of the criminal justice system. On another hand, if you're at all familiar with things like mandatory drug sentencing laws, racial profiling and the Supreme Court's rejection of disparate impact in criminal procedure cases, it's really nothing new. It does a great job of shining a light on the dangers of colorblindn ...more
Karen
Oct 01, 2012 Karen rated it it was amazing
I've worked in the violence prevention sector for 12 years now, and I've recently started learning about the prison industrial complex. As someone who focuses on systems of oppression, I tend to self-righteously roll my eyes when other white people are "shocked" at blatant cases of discrimination or violence in their community.

So I have to say, while reading this book I WAS SHOCKED. I had no idea how far down the rabbit hole mass incarceration actually went. It has also made me question my assum
...more
Mal Warwick
Mar 23, 2012 Mal Warwick rated it it was amazing
One of the Most Important Books Published in the English Language So Far This Century

Settle down now, class! It’s time for your pop quiz:

1. The number of Americans with criminal records is approximately: (a) 21.3 million, (b) 9 million, (c) 4.5 million, (d) 65 million

2. The highest incidence of the use and sale of illegal drugs is found in communities characterized as: (a) Asian, (b) African-American, (c) Latino, (d) White

3. The percentage of federal prisoners convicted of violent crimes is (a)
...more
Larry Bassett
Dec 12, 2014 Larry Bassett rated it it was amazing
I have included gobs of this book in status updates and other quotes so will probably not do my usual inclusion of material from the text within this review. But let me say first that I was immediately captivated by this book and soon adopted the feeling of some other reviewers that everyone should read and take this book to heart. I had the e-book from my local online library source but soon found that I had purchased two hardback copies with the idea of distributing them to people whom I could ...more
Clif Hostetler
Mar 05, 2013 Clif Hostetler rated it it was amazing
Shelves: current-events
This is not the sort of American exceptionalism to be proud of. The United States has the highest per capita rate of incarceration of any country in the world. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_...
That means one of two possibilities. Either we're a country of criminals, or our law makers have an inexplicable fascination with defining crime and punishment in a way that artificially creates criminals. This books says it's the latter.

What do you suppose is so unique about American culture that
...more
Christine Theberge Rafal
Dec 16, 2012 Christine Theberge Rafal rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics
The issues this book lays out are horrifying. Did you know the "home of the free" incarcerates a larger percentage of its population than any other country? And that the increase in our prison population since 1980 can be traced not to rising crime rates but to changes in policies, especially to unusually harsh sentencing, supported by race-based surveillance, in the so-called war on drugs. Once someone is caught in the system, the history of a felony relegates them to underclass status forever. ...more
Maurice Carlos Ruffin
Dec 30, 2013 Maurice Carlos Ruffin rated it it was amazing
Actually, the most depressing book I ever read. If you're anything like me, then you notice inequality in your everyday life. Why is it that a certain segment of society is always being hauled away in cuffs on the nightly news? Why are so many black and brown men run through the cycle of incarceration-as-career? Where ARE all the young black men? What has the War on Drugs actually achieved?

Alexander uses every tool in her box to rip the veil from the issue. Using historic examples, modern statis
...more
Sylvia
Jun 01, 2012 Sylvia rated it liked it
This Isn't Simply a Drug Issue or a Black/Brown Thing.

I appreciate the history detailed this book, i.e., slavery to reconstruction to Jim Crow to the 60s. I also came to the text expecting to agree fully with the concept, having seen far too many black men claimed by the prison system and left with virtually no means to contribute to society once released.

I read this book with increasing skepticism, however, because the author cherry-picked facts. Framing this state of affairs as largely the re
...more
Matt
May 25, 2012 Matt rated it it was amazing
This book pretty much blew me away. I'd have finished it a lot more quickly if it weren't for the fact that every time I picked it up, it gave me a colossal stomach ache.

The basic premise sounds like a conspiracy. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control in this country. It has the scent of the stuff you see from Marxist presses. It's the sort of theory of society that appears to require much greater orchestration than is even po
...more
Lata
Jan 03, 2017 Lata rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I kind of remember the start of the War on Drugs and thought at the time that this seemed like it would be a huge waste of money. According to the author of this book, not only did the US government throw great gobs of money at law enforcement to enact the plan, but the government and the Supreme Court have harmed countless black and brown men for years through the implementation of ever more harsh and punitive laws, while also ripping up parts of the US Constitution.

I'm not going to get into a
...more
Sera
Jan 14, 2014 Sera rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Sera by: Indie Press
Wow, this book is important on many different levels, but most importantly, it describes how the war on drugs (and the war on crime) under Ronald Reagan kicked off a series of events that has resulted in in the majority of the black male population in the United States to be either behind bars or suffering with the criminal stigma associated with post-release. Alexander does a great job of taking us through how modern day America resembled America during Reconstruction. It's clear that her legal ...more
Eilonwy
Nov 23, 2014 Eilonwy rated it it was amazing

I can hardly believe this is going on the US.
Mike Vogler
Apr 03, 2013 Mike Vogler rated it liked it
The one piece of advice I can offer to the potential reader of this book is to read it with a both a critical eye and an open-mind. "The New Jim Crow" is a very provocative book that squarely confronts the negative effects of the "War on Drugs" and the American criminal justice system.

I could not help but thinking however, that the title, which references the Jim Crow Laws of the Southern United States is a bit mis-leading. It implies that the War on Drugs and subsequent structural laws; such a
...more
Lauren
Aug 12, 2010 Lauren rated it it was amazing
This is, without a doubt, one of the best legal books I’ve ever read. Ms. Alexander takes an admittedly controversial thesis – that the U.S.’s current criminal laws (especially those involving the War on Drugs) are a new version of the pre-Civil Rights Jim Crow laws – and delivers a balanced analysis that is brilliantly executed. This could have easily been a bad book with either scattered research or ham-handed analysis. Instead this book is the sort of well-researched and well-written scholars ...more
David Smith
Mar 07, 2012 David Smith rated it it was amazing
It is impossible to overstate the importance of this book. I had a vague idea that the criminal justice system was messed up, but Michelle uses numbers and powerful language to do the issue justice.

Mass incarceration has ruined about 30 million lives directly. 30. MILLION. Take a moment to absorb the truly staggering scope of that number. The charge is most commonly nonviolent marijuana possession. The victims are overwhelmingly black, despite using drugs at slightly lower rates than whites. It'
...more
Carmen
Mar 11, 2015 Carmen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Without a doubt this is the most revolutionary text I have read thus far this year. To evoke a biblical allusion the scales have fallen from my eyes and I see the "war on drugs" for what it really is: a means of racial social control as repressive as Apartheid in South Africa.

The author, a former supreme court justice aid, meticulously describes and delineates the "War on Drugs" as being a system designed to 1) repress inner city lower income communities and effectively turn them into red zones,
...more
Iris P
Complicated, eye-opening and disturbing.
Review to come...
TheSkepticalReader
So important. Read this. Read this. Read this.
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Michelle Alexander is an associate professor of law at The Ohio State University, a civil rights advocate and a writer.
More about Michelle Alexander...

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“The genius of the current caste system, and what most distinguishes it from its predecessors, is that it appears voluntary. People choose to commit crimes, and that's why they are locked up or locked out, we are told. This feature makes the politics of responsibility particularly tempting, as it appears the system can be avoided with good behavior. But herein lies the trap. All people make mistakes. All of us are sinners. All of us are criminals. All of us violate the law at some point in our lives. In fact, if the worst thing you have ever done is speed ten miles over the speed limit on the freeway, you have put yourself and others at more risk of harm than someone smoking marijuana in the privacy of his or her living room. Yet there are people in the United States serving life sentences for first-time drug offenses, something virtually unheard of anywhere else in the world.” 67 likes
“The nature of the criminal justice system has changed. It is no longer primarily concerned with the prevention and punishment of crime, but rather with the management and control of the dispossessed.” 39 likes
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