The Prison Industrial Complex: Is the Criminal Justice System the New Jim Crow?

Where it concerns the criminal justice system and the minority communities—primarily African American and Hispanic, something has changed. Perhaps my experience is unique, but when I was a child, those families in my community with family members incarcerated were few and far between, at least, as far as we knew because going to prison, or the “pen” as my grandmother called it, was deemed disgraceful, so families often went to great pains to hide the incarceration of a family member. But today there is hardly any family that has not been affected the incarceration of a family member. According to the numbers, in 1980 only 350,000 were incarcerated; by the turn of the century, that number had increased to over 2 million.

But let me ask you this question: Why do you believe this is so? Is it because things have gotten so bad in our neighborhoods and in society at large that this level of incarceration is warranted? But what if I told you that actual crime rates are incommensurate with actual rates of incarceration, that though crime rates have remained relatively stable, incarceration rates have continued to rise? Is it the overall effectiveness of “The War on Drugs”? Or is it warranted because of the prevalence of drugs, particularly crack cocaine, in our neighborhoods? But what if I informed you that “The War on Drugs” actually predates the emergence of the crack cocaine epidemic and was mainly a political ploy to attract swing voters? Or that when “The War on Drugs” was precipitated, drug use was on the decline; in fact, at that time, only 2% of Americans thought that drug abuse was an actual problem? I have always held the assumption that the criminal justice system’s primary function was that of public safety; it worked to maintain an overall sense of public security by keeping our streets safe and putting those dangerous individuals who threatened that sense of safety behind bars where they belong. However, after reading Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness and consulting various sources, I am prepared to change my views. What are your views about the current criminal justice system? Do you think it fairly dispenses justice, or does it unfairly target minorities and the poor? What are your experiences with the criminal justice system? Join us at Freedom thru Speech Radio as we discuss this nation’s criminal justice system and seek to answer these questions and more. Tonight we will be introducing our new co-host, The Janitor of the blog Urban Politico. Also, gracing us with their presence are Eddie Rosario of the blog [un]Common Sense, The Prisoner’s Wife of the blog This Side of the Wall and LoveBabz of the blog Lovebabz: A Life in Transition. Tonight’s show airs at 8 PM EST, and you can join us and just listen or have your say by going to our BlogTalkRadio platform by clicking here, or dialing in at 914-803-4881.