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

4.49  ·  Rating details ·  27,695 Ratings  ·  3,514 Reviews
The New Jim Crow was initially published with a modest first printing and reasonable expectations for a hard-hitting book on a tough topic. Now, ten-plus printings later, the long-awaited paperback version of the book Lani Guinier calls “brave and bold,†and Pulitzer Prize-winner David Levering Lewis calls “stunning,†will at last be available.

In the era of colorblindnes
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Paperback, 312 pages
Published January 16th 2012 by The New Press (first published January 5th 2010)
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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)
J. I'm late to the party, but if you're interested in helping end poverty check out some Dave Ramsey or Rachel Cruze books. The number one step to…moreI'm late to the party, but if you're interested in helping end poverty check out some Dave Ramsey or Rachel Cruze books. The number one step to getting people out of poverty is getting them out of the cycle of debt slavery. It should be common sense but the vast majority of our idiotic country is living paycheck to paycheck while making car payments... amazing. It's wonderful how much more each person can do for others when half their paycheck isn't going to the bank. Which isn't to say banks are evil, but that people are stupid.(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Bill  Kerwin
May 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black-studies

In February of 2016, 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. It was then I decide I had put off reading The New Jim Crow long enough.
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Judith
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 Christine
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?
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Carol
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
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
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Lady Jane
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
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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
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Christopher
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
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Scott
Jul 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fic
If you deride the Black Lives Matter movement and believe that there is no substance to claims of African Americans being unfairly targeted and victimized by law enforcement then you should read this book. You probably won’t, but you should.

The New Jim Crow delves deeply into the tragic, seemingly near-invisible underside of the high-profile shootings of people like Philando Castile - the millions of other people of color in the United States who are imprisoned and subsequently discriminated ag
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Vannessa Anderson
"... 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,
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Rejena
Apr 17, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Mal Warwick
Mar 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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)
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Larry Bassett
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
Pink
Apr 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Where to start with this? Okay, if I'm completely honest, although I've long considered the justice system in America to have grave institutional racism, I've probably always looked at this the wrong way around. Being black in America = having less opportunities and resources. When that comes to living in ghettoised areas, with no jobs, inadequate schooling, bad housing and no foreseeable way out, turning to a life of crime may look like an easy and understandable option. But what if it isn't th ...more
Lauren Cecile
Sep 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must-read for anyone who is serious about understanding the current state of law, order and justice.
Sylvia
Jun 01, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Maurice Carlos Ruffin
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
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Gonzo
Nov 12, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book has a number of things going for it:
1. Most people who read this book are not good with numbers
2. Most people who read this book are not good with complicated arguments, especially if these arguments involve numbers.
3. People who are not good with numbers and arguments generally allow this deficit to be filled with an abundance of sympathy and feeling.
4. Sympathy and feeling facilitate sonorousness much better than facts and reason

That this book is tripe would, in better, freer ages,
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Clif Hostetler
Mar 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Christine
Dec 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Matt
May 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Lata
Jan 03, 2017 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
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Sera
Jan 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jessaka
Jan 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some people really thought that blacks were progressing in our society, after all Obama was elected, and you don't hear much from the black community anymore. What a surprise this book was. It should be required reading in every freshman high school class. It should be talked about in the news, but it isn't.
Jessica Sullivan
I came into this book with a pretty decent grasp on Alexander's thesis—thanks in part to the deserved hype her work has received over the years—but found myself captivated as she connected the dots on so many different aspects of mass incarceration, the War on Drugs, Jim Crow, and the historical intersection between classism and racism.

Alexander notes in her preface that she wrote this book specifically for people who already care about racial justice, and if you're one of those people, I urge y
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Barbara (The Bibliophage)
More reviews at TheBibliophage.com.

Abolishing the Jim Crow laws was central to the successful change brought on by the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. However, as the U.S. learned in the 2016 election cycle, we are far from a post-racial society. Long before that, back in 2010, Michelle Alexander published this seminal book about how the U.S. came to have "half a million people in prison or jail for a drug offense today." Mass incarceration of primarily black and brown people, she posits, is
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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.” 86 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.” 47 likes
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