Michelle Alexander, a civil rights lawyer and law professor at Ohio State University, argues in “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” (2010) that the mass imprisonment of black men since the 1980s has taken the place of Jim Crow as American society’s main way to control black men –  just as Jim Crow itself took the place of making them slaves. Angela Davis makes this argument too, but what follows is Alexander’s take:

America has the highest rate of imprisonment in the world, higher than the cruelest, most backward governments on earth. It has five times more people in prison now than in the 1970s.

Prisons have become a huge part of American society: if it were to return to the levels of the 1970s a million people would face being thrown out of work. And that is just those who work…

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