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    “The New Jim Crow” Analysis (1233 words)

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    Michelle Alexander author of  The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness investigates the repressive subject of sociological devices as seen through the eyes of color. Alexander, a civil rights advocate and graduate from law school covers a lot of material in her new book that entails how society has cultivated from enslavement to The New Jim Crow Laws, and to existing sociological devices known as “ Mass Incarceration”. Alexander’s knowledge in this field of study is contributed to her being executive of ACLU’S Racial Justice Project and her role as a highly appointed civil rights attorney. There are several aspects of racial profiling in the United States and readers are given an extensive lesson in history about the many facets that lead up to the most recent occurrences.

    What leads up to the investigation?

    In Michelle Alexander’s book, she claims that every generation possible have come up with some kind of scheme to bring about racial segregation and discrimination towards African Americans. “Sunshine gave away to darkness and the Jim Crow system of segregation emerged- a system that put black people nearly back where they began, in a subordinate racial caste”.1 According to Alexander, mass incarceration is just a replica of the original Jim Crow laws set in effect from (1876 to 1965), when it was perfectly ok to discriminate against blacks based on the color of their skin. Since day one, African Americans have been systematically denied the rights to the political process. Mass incarceration is just a device that the system uses to keep African Americans or people of color from obtaining a good job, restrict voter rights, housing, welfare, education, along with a host of other social advancements. Alexander explains that once a person is convicted of a felony and imprisoned, their rights are pretty much stripped from them.

    For a time, during his service in the penitentiary, he is in a state of penal servitude to the State. He has a consequence of his crime, not only forfeited his liberty but all his personal rights except those which the law in its humanity accords to him. He is for the time being a slave of the State. He is civiliter mortus: and his estate, if he has any, is administered like that of a dead man.

    To say nothing of, “the number of people that have been incarcerated in America between 1980 and 2015, has increased from roughly 500,000 to over 2.2 million. Not only have prison rates increased but, African Americans make up 34% of the prison population. In fact, African Americans are imprisoned merely 5 times more than the number of whites”.3 As a matter of fact, African Americans and whites even out when it comes to illegal drug use but for some reason, the imprisonment rate for illegal drug use is 6 times higher than that of whites. In addition, having a criminal record reduces the chance of getting a callback from a job by 50%. Furthermore, most drug offenses are labeled as felonies, so when the offender gets released from prison, the word “felon” becomes attached to their name. The system uses this vice as a type of social control to prevent felons from receiving any government benefits, participation in the political process, or gainful employment.

    How is racial disparity measured in the Criminal Justice System?

    For a period of time, the U.S. criminal justice system has debated whether or not the actions of the judicial system have operated in a discriminatory manner. Based on historical records from American law and justice, people have come to the conclusion that the system does, in fact, discriminate towards African Americans. Racial inequality is everywhere but it particularly resides in the southern states. Not much has changed since the days of Jim Crow Laws. For instance: the State of Texas alone has its own prejudices and discriminates against African Americans in the workforce and its prison systems.

    The statistics for the criminal justice system in Harris County show that violent crime is at 52 %. While African Americans make up 18.5% of the population in Harris County, 48% of the people in jail are blacks.4 On the contrary; Fort Bend County is considered the most ethnically diverse county in Texas with a 20.8% ratio of African Americans residing in the county alone. The crime here is 25.9% which is much lower than what is in Harris County, but still, carry a high amount of African Americans in the prison system holding at 34%.5 In comparison, Montgomery County has a population of over a half million people, out of that only 5.3 % are black. Yet still, the crime statistics for that county is 32.5% with a 63% ration of African Americans in jail as compared to other ethnicities.

    Not only are statistics high in the criminal justice system for African Americans, but also statistics for age, gender, and ethnicity when it comes to housing and employment. For instance, out of the population in Harris County Texas, 10.2% are age 65 years or older. The female/male population is about even. However, there is a 69% to 19% ratio with whites outnumbering blacks. In comparison, people 65 years or older still sits at 10.6%. The black population is at 21% while whites still outnumber them at 55%. On the contrary, you can see a huge difference in race relations in Montgomery County with a jump in the number of elderly at 12.9%. Be that as it may, the black/ white ratio changes drastically with whites at 88.6% while there are only 5.3 percent African Americans but no one seems to make sense as to why the prison rates are so high for African Americans?  “ Black men are disproportionately in crime is not a justification for racial discrimination. High rates of Black arrests generate statistically disparate arrest patterns, which in turn form the basis for further police selectivity by race”.

    Furthermore, Alexander points out “ Those who have been swept within the criminal justice system know that the way the system actually works bears little resemblance to what happens to television or in the movies”.9 Distrust in the American judicial system is plagued by racial disparity and hinders our ability to increase public immunity. Racial disparity is a significant burden on society that must be dealt with as a whole. However, there are several people working in the legal system that object to this problem and would like to see unwarranted racial disparities disappear. If this could happen, the criminal justice system would be productive in crime prevention.


    1. Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. (New York: New Press, 2010), 20.
    2. Criminal Justice Fact Sheet.’ NAACP. Accessed September 21, 2018.
    3. Fort Bend County, Texas Crime.’ Cost of Living Comparison: Compare Spokane, Washington to Rancho San Diego, California. Accessed September 25, 2018.
    4. Harris County, Texas Crime.’ Cost of Living Comparison: Compare Spokane, Washington to Rancho San Diego, California. Accessed September 25, 2018.
    5. Montgomery County, Texas Crime.’ Cost of Living Comparison: Compare Spokane, Washington to Rancho San Diego, California. Accessed September 25, 2018.
    6. Russell, Katheryn K. The Color of Crime : Racial Hoaxes, White Fear, Black Protectionism, Police Harassment, and Other Macroaggressions. (New York University Press, 1998), 73.
    7. U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Montgomery County, Texas; Fort Bend County, Texas; Harris County, Texas.’ Census Bureau QuickFacts. Accessed September 25, 2018.,fortbendcountytexas,harriscountytexas/BZA115216.

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