Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Injustice in the Criminal Justice System

Miami Herald columnist, Leonard Pitts, reviewed a book mentioned here in CTW a few months ago: 'The New Jim Crow'. Author Michelle Alexander does extremely important work in bringing to light the inequities of the criminal justice system in its incarceration of minorities, more specifically African-American men and its devastating impact on black communities and our country. It's an issue about which a number of whites (and not a few blacks) feel all too comfortable moralizing about, because it is far easier to believe that everyone behind bars is 'criminal' vs. the prospect that there is something 'criminal' in the system itself.

"...Others have written of the racial bias of the criminal injustice system. In The New Jim Crow, Alexander goes a provocative step further. She contends that the mass incarceration of black men for nonviolent drug offenses, combined with sentencing disparities and laws making it legal to discriminate against felons in housing, employment, education and voting, constitute nothing less than a new racial caste system. A new segregation."

"She has a point. Yes, the war on drugs is officially race-neutral. So were the grandfather clause and other Jim Crow laws whose intention and effect were nevertheless to restrict black freedom."

"The war on drugs is a war on African-American people, and we countenance it because we implicitly accept certain assumptions sold to us by the news and entertainment media, chief among them that drug use is rampant in the black community. But. The. Assumption. Is. WRONG."

"According to federal figures, blacks and whites use drugs at a roughly equal rate in percentage terms. In terms of raw numbers, whites are far and away the biggest users – and dealers – of illegal drugs."

"So why aren't cops kicking their doors in? Why aren't their sons pulled over a dozen times in nine months? Why are black men 12 times as likely to be jailed for drugs as white ones? Why aren't white communities robbed of their fathers, brothers, sons?"

Look for this one at future Urban Engagement Book Club...

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