Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The New Jim Crow: Chapter 2

Haley Scholars Fall 2013 Reading Groups 

Chapter 2 of Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow focuses on how the system of mass incarceration works. Alexander concentrates on the "War on Drugs," because "convictions for drug offenses are the single most important cause of the explosion in incarceration rates in the United States." Early on, she dispels myths, noting that the war is not "aimed at ridding the nation of drug 'kingpins' or big-time drug dealers," and the drug war is not "principally concerned with dangerous drugs" (60).

Throughout the chapter Alexander explains the way that the system works, and she points out ways that the drug war frequently functions to undermine many civil liberties. She further demonstrates how people who commit minor offenses, and in far too many cases, people who are innocent become involved in the criminal justice system.

Of the issues Alexander covered, what was one topic or idea that seemed to most challenge long-held beliefs (or myths) that you held? Or, what aspect of mass incarceration that she addressed seemed most unsettling to you in the chapter?   


Nicholas M. said...

The relation of the war on drugs and the mass incarceration of African Americans is what I found to be the most unsettling.I don't think law enforcement is using the war on drugs as a cover up to target African Americans.
It's kind of like the luck of the draw. Both African Americans and Whites are dealing drugs, but the majority of people getting caught are African Americans. It's no coincidence.
Also, I disagree that the war on drugs is not "principally concerned with dangerous drugs." Marijuana is a gateway drug. Most people are in jail because of marijuana offenses. I feel that the law enforcement or the justice system is trying to stop users of marijuana from using/selling more "dangerous drugs" by punishing them earlier before they attempt more "dangerous drugs."

Jamal Sims said...

Something that was mentioned by Alexander in this chapter that challenged my beliefs was the fact that many individuals whom are incarcerated do not received adaquete representation. Therefore, they are stuck accepting a prison sentence, which they may not have deserved.
This was surprising to me, because I was not aware of the bias and faulty structure of the prison system.

Dj Sterling said...

One aspect of mass incarceration that was unsettling to me was the harsh sentencing of non-violent crimes. Alexander states, "In fact, fifty years to life was the actual sentence given to Leandro Andrade for stealing videotapes, a sentence upheld by the Supreme Court" (91-92). I was also amazed that some of the sentences that are received in the United States are drastic compared to other countries. Alexander mentions on page 90 that a mandatory ten-year sentence for drugs in the U. S. would only be six months in prison in England.

Jeremy H said...

Our legal system has been over crowded since the war on drugs began 40 years ago and minorities have taken the grunt of this. I find it unsettling how drugs found in minority communities were given much more strict consequences than the designer drugs in use by higher class citizens. This also led to the mass incarceration of minorities that we see today.
Jeremy H

Robert F said...

When she covered the topic concerning innocents becoming caught up in the system. Usually when they have been tangled into the mix they were pressured into plea bargains. Especially when the innocent did not have reasonable representation. All this leading to a small chance of freedom. Many getting incarcerated were not treated fairly and are currently paying for it with their lives.
This whole situation makes me feel uneasy by the justice system we have in place.

Joshua Jones said...

What challenged my belief in this chapter was the poor representation of some individuals. Some people who are innocent don't have a choice in their fate, and are stuck with little help in the system. How can we have a justice system without everyone having equal opportunities.

Wole Abraham said...

What really challenged my beliefs was when Alexander referred to how people who are not represented well can easily get caught up in a prison sentence. It made me start to think of how many people are still affected by this issue. Many innocent people are getting trapped in an endless circle because of under representation.