StudyBoss » African American » The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration Analysis Essay

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration Analysis Essay

Growing up in America, , as a black male in Philadelphia, Pa, throughout my life I have seen many of my ethnic group arrested and convicted for various crimes and offences. This has had a profound effect on my perspective of the Pennsylvania Judicial system, including police, courts and prison. Being in an environment that glorified violence, I saw young men fall victim to the delusion that we could avoid the consequences of crime. But I have also seen the unfairness of the system and the bad results of incarceration for individual and families.

Since attending Community College of Philadelphia, I have taken two classes that have given me a better insight into this subject. Academic work for History 101 and English 102 have shown me the nation we live in has been built off the exploitation of lower class citizens, who as a result live in environments cut off from mainstream society. These citizens often experience discrimination as well. Michelle Alexander’s, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration and the Age of the Colorblindness has expanded my curiosity about how America’s prison system operates and Alexander’s analysis has opened my eyes to this problem within our society.

One disappointment however, is that while Alexander addresses the issues of mass incarceration, and racial discrimination, but she fails to suggest solutions to these problems. In my paper, I will use Michelle Alexander, as well as other sources, to suggest some solutions for African American males. The mass incarceration of fathers and other males, the code of the streets, and the rejection of urban communities’ from mainstream society are all contributing factors to the negative effects on urban youth and he rise of youth violence and all must be considered on looking for solutions. The youth are our future; if our future generations are behind bars or totally alienated, how can African Americans evolve into a strong part of America’s society? According to Alexander, Mass incarceration was put into effect during the 1950s-1960s. This appears to have been a strategic plan which was intended to restrict the Civil Rights movement in the South. White politicians hypothesized that civil unrest resulting from the movement would increase violence from African Americans.

This system of suppression was linked to African Americans perceived as being lower class citizens. Presently incarceration affects a small percentage of whites, mass incarceration effects African American and Latino-Americans. According to Criminal Justice Fact Sheet, published by the NAACP, “from 1980 to 2008 the number of people incarcerated in America quadrupled-from roughly 500,000 to 2. 3 million” (Criminal Justice Facts Sheets 1). This fact shows the vast growth of people incarcerated, mainly due to the War on Drugs.

In October 1982, President Ronald Reagan officially announced his administration’s War on Drugs. “Drug offenses alone account for two-thirds of the rise in the Federal inmate population and more than half in the rise in State prisoners in 1985-2000 … the number of people incarcerated in our nations and prisons and jails soared from roughly 300,000 to more than 2 million” (Alexander, 60). A shift in enforcement helped increase racial disparities in incarceration. Under Reagan,”… he Justice Department announced its intention to cut in half the number of specialists assigned to identify and prosecute white collar criminals and to shift its attention to street crime, especially drug-law enforcement” (Alexander, 49). This shift in police departments’ focus on enforcement on street crimes changed the admission rates of African Americans to prison, which was relatively stable between white and blacks until 1975. White Collar crimes include tax evasion, embezzlement, and bank fraud and are usually committed by whites.

Not only is there minimal prosecution for these crimes, but the media highlights street crimes in contrast to white collar crimes in local news segments. These news clips give society a negative view of African Americans, who tend to be arrested for street crimes at a higher rate than whites. My current hypothesis focuses on children, especially young black males who lack the guidance of a father figure, due to the fact their father and other family members are behind bars. According to ChildTrends. rg “One in every 15 African American children has a parent in prison, compared with 1 and every 42 Hispanic children and 1 and every 111 white children” (Child Trends, 2015). This has a huge effect on the family structure and support system. During the time of incarceration, families experience economic stress, because the mother is forced to provide for her family while the father is incarcerated. In addition this stress can continue if ex-convicts cannot find employment due to his arrest record.

When fathers or males are not present in a home, it has a tremendous effect on the growth and the sustainability of the family. “In fact, it seems that incarceration, by itself, places children and families at increased risk. .. [the] influence of parental mental health, educational, and employment issues-for a number of negative outcomes including family instability, poverty, and aggressive behavior”(Child Trends, 2015).

In a scholarly article Beyond Absenteeism by, Geller, Copper found “that paternal incarceration is associated with significant increase in children’s aggressive behavior … he estimated effects of paternal incarceration are stronger than those of other forms of father absence, suggesting that children with incarcerated fathers may require specialized support from caretakers, teachers, and social service providers”( 2). However urban males may shy away from help of love ones out of pride and turn to the wrong crowd and peers for a sense of identity. Furthermore, these children often run to the streets and peers in their community for guidance. This helps the code of the streets to take over.

In the environment, a lack the higher goals and dreams, such as raduating college and getting a career, in addition to peer pressure, often forcing young men into a life of crime and high rates of recidivism . Alienated youth often look up to criminals and gang members living by “the codes of the streets”, Steward and Simons in Race, Code of the Street, and Violent Delinquency, referred to Anderson who defined the neighborhood street culture as “a set of informal rules governing interpersonal public behavior, particularly violence … a rationale allowing those who are inclined to aggression to precipitate violent encounters in an approved way” (2).

The rules of the streets justify themselves and ultimately mask the real world (main stream society) consequences. ” In 1991, the Sentencing Project reported that the number of people behind bars in the United States was unprecedented in world history, and that on fourth of young African American men were now under the control of the criminal justice system”(Alexander 56). The consequences youth may face within their community of losing respect of peers overrides their fear of the consequences of the justice system. Richardson, and St.

Vil in Putting in Work, quotes Anderson, who writes “that in the street, respect is tenuous at best; it is hard to gain, but easy to lose … Many youth feel that it is expectable to risk dying over the principle of respect. Not to be afraid to die suggests that they also have little reservation about taking someone else’s life. ” (86) Many youth offenders also lack the knowledge of American judicial system and may not be aware they live under a system that is stacked against them. This deficiency gives way to the repercussion of “the System” seeming less real, less fearful.

For them, the rules of “the streets” justify themselves. Black youth lack the knowledge that there is a strategic, systematic plan to hold them back; but in their eyes, it’s a “cat and mouse game” with police; perhaps they do not realize that police are winning. Unknown to many urban African Americans youth, it’s a system they were born into. For example, Criminal Justice Fact Sheets states, one in six black men had been incarcerated as of 2001. If current trends continue, one in three black males born today can expect to spend time in prison during his lifetime (NAACP 2).

Throughout the history the nation has taken every opportunity to suppress African American males, both legally and illegally, through policies such as slavery and now mass incarceration, The War on Drugs, and “stop and frisk”. However, this suppression can be reversed through employment, expunging of criminal records, improved education, and mentoring for the youth. As the War on Drugs expanded, globalization and deindustrialization affected black inner-city communities the most. Industrial employment decreased by 28 percent, which increased incentives for Black males’ to sell

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.