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

4.49  ·  Rating details ·  50,022 ratings  ·  5,369 reviews
"Jarvious Cotton's great-great-grandfather could not vote as a slave. His great-grandfather was beaten to death by the Klu Klux Klan for attempting to vote. His grandfather was prevented from voting by Klan intimidation; his father was barred by poll taxes and literacy tests. Today, Cotton cannot vote because he, like many black men in the United States, has been labeled a ...more
Paperback, 312 pages
Published January 16th 2012 by Perseus (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)

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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.
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
Mario the lone bookwolf
Hardly an author opened my eyes for the real dimensions and roots of the prison industry as Alexander did, she nails down the problems intrinsic to an injustice system growing like a virus or tumor in a once prospering nation.

I´ll compare 3 examples of systems, from best to worst, to demonstrate that it´s not just a problem of hidden, suppressed racism, but a question of the societal model too.

1. Fair, sustainable, eco social, Keynesian, Nordic model countries with rehabilitative justice su
Criminal Purpose

Intention is not the equivalent of purpose - neither for individuals nor for societies. Intention is mental and ephemeral, an idea-before-the-fact which is part of a complex of other ideas, many of which may be contrary or contradictory. Intention is expressed in what we say about what we want. Purpose is the behavioral result of actions which are actually taken, and which reveal our frequently unstated or even unconscious commitments. Purpose is the concrete effects of what we d
Jul 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You need to read this. I don’t pretend to have a terribly high opinion of the US. Like Australia, it is a settler society that really needs to reconcile and make amends with its own past. For instance, until very recently the US had a holocaust museum, but no museum to slavery. The history of slavery and of Jim Crow is a stain that marks the entire sweep of US history – and that stain is red, because it is in blood.

The problem is that since the US has never reconciled itself with its past, it fi
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
Diane S ☔
Oct 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I grew up in Chicago so I am well aware of how race can divide a city. I've lived it, seen it, the good and the bad. There are no problems harder to solve then sociological ones. One can mandate changes, change the laws, make more and more things people say and do illegal, doesn't change the way they think, change their long held beliefs, inborn prejudices and biases. Why I believe things only change on the surface, looks like we're making progress, but look underneath and you'll find ...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.
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
If you aren’t familiar with how America has expressed its racism institutionally since the demise of slavery and the repeal of the overtly racist Jim Crowe laws, you might want to read this book. The author spells out in plain language how our laws and our courts have followed a racist agenda designed to rid our streets of young black men and other so called undesirables.

These laws began in the 1970s, picked up steam under the guise of the war on drugs, and kept rolling with the conservative re
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,
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
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 (
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
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.
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
Book Riot Community
This book changed the way I see the prison industrial complex by drawing links between public policy, primarily the “War on Drugs,” the egregiously high rates of incarceration and the ongoing struggle for racial equality in the US. While this is not a light book by any means–in discussing the history of race and class struggles in America, how could it be?–reading it helped me understand how and why inequality continues to be an issue in modern society, even though and perhaps sometimes because ...more
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.
Emily May
May 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, nonfiction
A must-read.
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
Feb 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow. This is a devastating, incredibly important, impactful book. It should be required reading.

It's astonishing just how much information Alexander packed into less than 300 pages. The fact that she examined everything with such nuance, refuting counterarguments left and right, makes the book all the more satisfying.

At times it reads a bit like a textbook, which is why this is four stars for me, but the content itself is essential reading.

Every American should be required to read this, to attem
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.
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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Michelle Alexander is an associate professor of law at The Ohio State University, a civil rights advocate and a writer.

Articles featuring this book

Kim Johnson's upcoming YA debut This Is My America explores racial injustice against innocent black men who are criminally sentenced and the fam...
31 likes · 11 comments
“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.” 140 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.” 74 likes
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