The New Jim Crow

Alexander Michelle Quotes

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The origins of mass incarceration - 1950s and 60s

''law and order'' rhetoric first used by white Southern segregationists in the late 1950s to try and generate opposition to the Civil Rights Movement

characterised disriptive and direct action techniques from CR activists as criminal 

Crime rates began to rise steadily in the 1960s as the baby boom generation grew up

Harlem riots in the summer of 64 were sensationalised

Goldwater's 1964 presidential campaign "choose the way of the Johnson Administration and you have the way of mobs on the street"

Segregationists distanced themselves from explicitly racist agendas as the tide of public opinion turned

Law and order rhetoric proved highly affective in appealing to poor and working class whites

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The Southern Switch

Law and Order rhetoric contributed to the left/right wing switch between Republican and Democrat

Republican analysts believed they could create a 'new majority' with Law and Order rhetoric which included the white south and half the blue-collar vote of the big cities

Haldeman, Nixon's key advisor ''Nixon emphasised that the whole problem is really the blacks''

Ehrlichman, special counsel ''the subliminal appeal to the anti-black voter was always present in Nixon's statements and speeches''

Southern white Democrats had been so angered by Kennedy and Johnson's liberal and reformist approaches to CR, that they were more than willing to switch when offered appeals to racial resentments

Moynihan report - attributed black poverty and crime to black culture and overly generous welfare

Nixon dedicated 17 speeches to Law and Order

Conservative revolution within the Republican party did not mature until 1980

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Reagan - completing the Southern Switch

22% of former Democrat voters defected for Reagan

Reagan echoed white frustration in race-neutral terms through implicit racial appeals such as ''welfare queen'' 

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The Reagan Administration and the Start of the War

Justice Department halved the number of specialists devoted to white-collar crime and shifted its attention to street crime

War on Drugs was officially announced in 1982

at the time of its announcement, less than 2% thought drugs were the most important US issue

between 1980 and 84, the FBI antidrug funding increased from $8m to $95m 

DEA increaed from $86m to $1,026m

funding for treatment, prevention and education was dramatically reduced

Demers ''Reagan had to convince the public that what was actually an issue of public health was actually an issue of public safety"

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The Urban Backdrop to the WOD

Inner cities were suffering from economic collapse at the start of the 1980s

spatial mismatch of new jobs - manufacturing moved to the suburbs and only 28% of black men had access to a car

crack cocaine hit the streets in 1985 - form of cocaine which had a more intense but shorter high using less of the drug - possible to sell small doses at affordable prices

spike in violence upon introduction of crack before the drug market stabilised

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Reaction to Crack

Could have reacted in the Portuguese way - decriminalised all drugs and put the money that would have been spent on policing into education and rehabilitation

America chose a 'crackdown'

crack was sensationalised and publicised in order to legitimise the WOD

Time magazine termed crack ''the issue of the year'' in August 1986

Articles appeared featuring ''crack whores'' and ''crack babies''

Between October 1988 and 89, the Washington Post ran 1,565 stories about the ''drug scourge''

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Anti-drug Legislation: 1980s

September 1986- legislation allocated $2bn to the antidrug crusade

Military participation on the streets

Authorised the admission of some illegally-obtained evidence in trials

Anti Drug Abuse Act of 1986 introduced mandatory minimum sentences

revitalised Anti Drug Abuse Act of 1988 - tenants could be evicted from public housing for ''allowing'' drug-related crime to occur and eliminated federal benefits (such as student loans) for ex-cons

Until 1988, 1 year had been the maximum time for any drug posession. The new minimum for cocaine was 5 years

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How Bush Contributed to the WOD

''Willie Horton'' ad- racially charged ad provoking white fears about black criminality and **** of white women

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Rallying Public Concern

in 1989 - 64% of those polled now thought that drugs were the most significant US problem

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announced in 1990 that it intended to ''join the battle against illegal drugs'' by becoming ''the eyes and ears of the police''

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The 1990s

By 1991, the number of prisoners was unprecented in world history, with 25% of young black men now under the control of the CJS

Arrests for cannabis account for 80% of the growth in drug arrests in the 1990s

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Clinton and the 90s

In his 1994 State of the Union address, Clinton advocated his infamous ''three strikes and you're out'' law

created dozens of new federal capital crimes

mandated life sentences for some 3-time+ offenders

authorised more than $16bn for state prison grants

Alexander - Clinton created the current racial undercaste ''more than any other president''

Created the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act - which eradicated welfare as we know it

replaced welfare with TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) - 5-year lifetime limit on welfare assistance

Permanently banned ex-cons from welfare or food stamps

Clinton slashed funding for public housing by 17bn - 61% less

boosted corrections by $19bn

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the 21st Century

More than 2 million behind bars in 2000

Drug convictions responsible for 2/3 of the rise in the prison population between 1985 and 2000

500,000 are in prison for drug offenses today, compared with 41,100 in 1980

in 2005, 4/5 of drug arrests were for posession

7 million in jail, probation or parole in 2007

1 in 9 black men between the ages of 20 and 35 are now in prison

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The Plight of the Ex-Con

relegated to the margins of society and a social space not unlik Jim Crow

denied employment, housing and access to education as well as the right to vote

only 19% of those on probation were convicted for a violent offence

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Race-neutral Racism

90% of those imprisoned for drug offenses were black or latino - yet mass incarceration was explaine din race neutral terms

many innocent people forced into guilty plea bargains in the face of huge legal fees, long jail terms before trial and extortionate sentences

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The Myth of Black Drug Use

National Institute on Drug Abuse in 2000 - white youths are 7x more likely to use cocaine or heroin than black youth

almost identical usage rates for weed

white youths reponsible for 3x more drug related ER vists

in any given year, 10% of Americans with violate drug laws

Enforcing drug laws requires proactivity by law enforcement because it is popular and consensual

Black Americans constitute 15% of drug users

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Room for Discrimination

Law enforcement given extraordinary discretion in choosing whom to stop, search, arrest or charge - conscious and unconscious racial stereotypes are given free reign

In the Baldus study, of more than 2000 murder cases in Georgia, it found that defendants accused of killing white victims received the death penalty 11 times more than those charged with killing black victims

Federal laws punish crack cocaine - traditionally a black problem  - 100x more severely than powder cocaine - traditionally a white problem

Georgia's '2 strikes and you're out' policy gave a life sentence to 2nd time drug offenders, and district attorneys had complete discretion case by case - invoked against 1% of white cases

ongoing rhetoric of individual responsibility

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How the Courts have Allowed for Bias

Claims of bias are closed by demands to see clear proof that racial disparities are the product of intentional discrimination - this evidence does not exist

Threats of harsh mandatory minimums are used to force guilty plea bargains even when the defendant may be innocent

In Whren v United States, police were allowed by the Supreme Court to use minor traffic violations to initiate drug searches

Court also ruled that claims of racial bias could not be brought under the 4th Amendment (right of people against unwarranted searches)

neither the state not the state police can be sued for damages - lack of accountability

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Prison stats

In Chicago, those annually sent to prison for drug offenses rose 2,000% from 469 in 1985 to 8,755 in 2005

Drug convictions are responsible for 2/3 of the rise in the federal inmate population between 1985 and 2000  

500,000 are in prison for drug offenses today, compared with 41,100 in 1980 

In 2005, 4/5 drug arrests were for possession 

Arrests for weed account for 80% of the growth in drug arrests in the 1990s 

7 million in jail, probation or parole in 2007 

Number of blacks in prison in 2000 was 26x more than in 1983 

1/7 black men in America have now lost the right to vote

less tha 3% of convictions are for homicide

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ex-con stats

in 2000, out of 98 occupations which required a licence, 57 places restrictions or sanctions on ex-offenders

only 19% of probationers were convicted for a violent offence

12 million ex-offenders of working age in 2008

at least $57bn drag on economic output

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drug abuse stats

Study in 2000 - National Institute on Drug Abuse -white youths are 7x more likely to use cocaine or heroin than black youth 

Rates for weed are nearly identical 

White youths are responsible for 3x more drug related emergency room visits than blacks

40% of those in prison for drugs atm are black

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Georgia's ''2 strikes and you're out''

Georgia – ‘2 strikes and you’re out’’ policy – life sentence for 2nd time drug offenders, and district attorneys had complete discretion in whether to pursue this case-by-case 

Invoked against 1% of white defendants 

16% of black defendants

98.4% of those serving life in Georgia under this provision were black

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The Freedoms of the Prosecutor

can drop or pursue cases

add more charges

transfer to federal courts

juveniles can be transferred to an adult court

no code of conduct

black juveniles with no record 6x more likely to be sent to prison than identical whites - 2000

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Jury bias

Preemptory strikes

disparate questioning of jurors

Jury pools can be chosen through Department of Motor Vehicle lists - lower black car ownership

lifetime felon exclusion from juries in 31 states 

black jurors struck first under ''race neutral'' excuses

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racial profiling - stop and search

1990s, New Jersey. 15% of those on the Turnpike minority, but 42% of all stops and searches

73% of arrests were blacks

whites were almost twice as likely to be found with illegal contraband as blacks

''circular logic of racial profiling''

NYPD - 508,540 people were stopped in 2007 - more than half black

NYPD 2008 - blacks were 85% of all frisks - less than 1% resulted in finding guns

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low-level arrests - the ulterior motives

NYPD 2010 - made 50,300 marijuana arrests - ''training opportunities'' for green officers

  • collect fingerprints
  • collect photographs
  • put young black males on the system
  • system of control and surveillance
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by 1970, 80% of black Americans lived in urban areas

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social segregation

social segregation increased in New York from 40.6% in 1860 to 86.8% in 1940

poor, undereducated southern blacks moving to northern cities - cramped into tenements near factory jobs

commitment to housing segregation was included in the code of conduct of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers between 1924 and 1950

1.4 million blacks moved north during the 1960s

black population in Detroit changed from 16% to 44% between 1950 and 1970

DC- a case study

Anacostia district - black areas, unemployment at 20% compared with 3.6% in white areas

high incarceration rates contribute to the ''invisible''

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''blockbusting'' - creation + expansion of the ghe

  • quietly buy a few homes in a poor. ageing white neighbourhood
  • fill them with ostensibly lower class blacks
  • agents go door to door warning of an impending 'invasion'
  • offer to buy white family's homes for a low price
  • white panic spread
  • at the same time, agents advertised amongst blacks
  • racial turnover would ensue

blacks made to pay higher rents than whites ever did

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The Curse of the Black Mortgageless

white banks did not make loans to black applicants

realtors became mortgagers to blacks and demanded much higher interest rates than from whites

realtors would evict the families after one or two defaulted payments and then 'resell' the property

  • the ghetto followed blacks
  • owners were shuffled in an out
  • extortionate prices meant they could not afford community upkeep

Rose Helper - study of real estate agents in the 1950s - 80% refused to sell blacks property in white neighbourhoods

1/4 charged blacks higher rents

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HOLC ''Redlining''

Home Owners Loan Corporation

evaluated risks of mortgages regarding area, with red being the worst

Red categories never received HOLC loans

black neighbourhoods invariably redlined

Banks relied on HOLC maps - institutionalising racism

Redlining contributed to lack of private investment in black areas

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the myth of urban renewal

  • usually destroyed more housing than it replaced
  • orchestrated by white business elites
  • aimed to clear slums threatening business districts
  • fostered parallell racial tension by shifting threat of ghetto expansion from white business districts to working class white areas
  • replaced low density slums with high density tower blocks
  • segregation became economic as well as social - no black class diversity in the tower blocks
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Positive Steps?

1968 - Fair Housing Act banned discrimination in sale or renting

2011 - `13 states reported prison closures

2012 - Florida closed 10 prisons

2014 - California reduced certain drug offenses to misdemeanors, reducing prison pop by 8,700

2016 - California legalises marijuana

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Modern anti-prison activism

Sept 2016 - largest prison strike in US history 

  • Free Alabama Movement
  • Incacerated Workers Organising Committee
  • 12 days
  • 46 prisons
  • $636,000 lost revenue in Cali for every day of strike
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Nixon the ****

 John Ehrlichman, Nixon’s former domestic policy adviser in an interview with Harper’s reporter Dan Baum in 1994

“we knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalising both heavily, we could disrupt those communities…. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did”

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In the male vacuum

burden shifted onto women and children in the ghetto

the case of Regina McKnight ''new Jane Crow''

  • found guilty of murder in South Carolina after a stillbirth
  • jury deliberated and found her guilty because she had consumed cocaine whilst pregnant
  • served 8 years before being released due to 'outdated' evidence

those left behind also face assault from the state

  • coded word ''Welfare Queen'' appeared under Reagan government
  • in 2008, mothers on welfare were more than 60% black or latino
  • officers used food stamp records to track down people with warrants or parole violations 
  • 2013, 7 states (mainly southern) require food stamp applicants to submit to drug tests
  • 20 states have a 'family cap' - no welfare for additional children
  • 48 states had lower real benefits in 2010 compared with 1996
  • prosecution for 'fraud' or stopping benefits if women are found to be undertaking informal paid work such as cleaning or laundry
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Prison towns

prisons often built in poor white, rural towns

  • bringing jobs and contracts to local businesses
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Devah Pager experiment - 2001

4 men, 2 white 2 black, one of each race had a criminal record

applied for the same low level jobs

  • white without criminal record: 34% callbacks
  • white with record: 17%
  • Black without criminal record: 14%
  • Black with record: 5%


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criminalisation of the black man

  • aura of stigma and shame around mass incarceration
  • people of colour labelled criminals - too few question the system which subjugates them
  • we cannot hate based on race, but we can hate criminals

Americans only advocate for those who they feel are 'respectable'

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The Prison Industrial Complex

corporate interests ensure smaller infractions trigger longer sentences

Koritha Mitchell ''mass incarceration is a hustle''

disregarding prisoners rights fuels corporate greed

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Walker - Progressive Origins Theory

Mapp v Ohio case in the Warren Court in 1961

  • aimed to stop warrantless searches and curb police abuses
  • led to police evasiveness, lying in court and more aggressive questioning techniques
  • officer confusion over whether they could legally search suspects who were not under arrest
  • 70% spike in ''dropsies'' (where suspects 'drop' evidence) in the year after Mapp
  • led to NYPD adopting a ''stop and frisk'' law in 1965

Democrats proposed the 100 to 1 law

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