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Mass Incarceration and the “New Jim Crow”
“Political Prisoners, Prisons, and
Black Liberation” (1971)
“Needless to say, the history of the United
States has been marred from its inception
by an enormous quantity of unjust laws,
far too many expressly bolstering the
oppression of black people….[F]or all
nationally oppressed people, the problem
of opposing unjust laws and the social
conditions which nourish their growth has
always had immediate practical
implications. Our very survival has
frequently been a direct function of our
skill in forging effective channels of
resistance….But even containing our
resistance within the orbit of legality, we
have been labeled criminals and have
been methodically persecuted by a racist
legal apparatus” (pp. 64-65).
Davis asks, “Are prisons racist institutions?
Is racism so deeply entrenched in the
institution of the prison that it is not possible
to eliminate one without eliminating the
other?” (Are Prisons Obsolete? pg. 26).
--13th Amendment
(Ratified Dec 1865)
“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude,
except as a punishment for crime whereof the party
shall have been duly convicted,
shall exist within the United States, or any place subject
to their jurisdiction.”
Florida, 1915.
Georgia, 1903.
Black Codes and the Convict Lease
System (emerged after Civil War)
“…Black Codes proscribed a range of actions—such as vagrancy
[homelessness], absence from work, breach of job contracts, the possession of
firearms, and insulting gestures or acts—that were criminalized only when the
person charged was black.”
--Angela Davis, Are Prisons Obsolete?, pg. 28.
Mississippi State Penitentiary
(aka Parchman Farm),
est. 1901
(2003)
The “Prison-Industrial Complex”
This concept underscores the reality that
building, maintaining, and operating prisons is
big business. On average, $33,274 in
government funds (tax dollars) were spent per
prisoner in 2015. That year, Massachusetts
spent more than $55,170 per inmate while
New York spent $69,355. Many prisons are
privately run, meaning they generate profit for
a private business. Nearly 68 percent of these
costs go to pay corrections officers, staff, and
administrators.
Source: Vera Institute for Justice, “Prison Spending in 2015.”
Nixon’s “War on Drugs”
In the 1990s, Nixon aide John Ehrlichman described the
motivation for the administration’s so-called “War on Drugs”:
“You want to know what this was really all about? The Nixon
campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had
two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand
what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be
either against the war or black, but by getting the public to
associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and
then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those
communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes,
break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the
evening news.
Did we know we were lying about the drugs?
Of course we did.”
(2020)
Felon Disenfranchisement
Felon Disenfranchisement:
What does this mean?
• In 2020, about 5.17 million Americans (2.27 percent of voting eligible pop) were
disenfranchised due to a felony conviction, down from 6.11 million in 2016 thanks
to efforts to reform these laws.
• 43 percent of those disenfranchised are in eleven states that impose restrictions on
at least some groups even after their sentence is completed.
• In AL, MS, and TN, more than eight percent of the adult population (one in
thirteen people) is prevented from voting by these laws. In 2015, the 50th
anniversary of the VRA, 30 percent of Black men in AL were barred from voting
by felon disenfranchisement (Source: 13th).
Source: The Sentencing Project, “Locked Out 2020: Estimates of People Denied
Voting Rights Due to a Felony Conviction” (30 Oct 2020).
Felon Disenfranchisement:
What does this mean? (cont’d)
• Florida, a pivotal swing state that decided the 2000 election in favor of George W.
Bush, is the worst offender in terms of absolute numbers. Researchers at the
Sentencing Project “estimate that nearly 900,000 Floridians who have completed
their sentences remain disenfranchised, despite a 2018 ballot referendum that
promised to restore their voting rights. Florida thus remains the nation’s
disenfranchisement leader…with over 1.1 million people currently banned from
voting – often because they cannot afford to pay court-ordered monetary sanctions
or because the state is not obligated to tell them the amount of their sanction.”
• About 6.2 percent of the adult Black population in the U.S. is disenfranchised, a
rate 3.7 times higher than the non-Black population. In AL, FL, KY, MS, TN, VA,
and WY, more than one in seven Black adults are disenfranchised by these laws.
Source: The Sentencing Project, “Locked Out 2020: Estimates of People Denied
Voting Rights Due to a Felony Conviction” (30 Oct 2020).
(2010)
“School-to-Prison Pipeline”
This term acknowledges the link between deteriorating
public education systems and the reality that youth from
poor school districts are more likely than average to
serve time in the juvenile or criminal justice systems.
Often, students in these systems have learning
disabilities or have been victimized by poverty or abuse.
The ACLU notes, “‘Zero-tolerance’ policies criminalize
minor infractions of school rules, while cops in schools
lead to students being criminalized for behavior that
should be handled inside the school. Students of color
are especially vulnerable to push-out trends and the
discriminatory application of discipline.” Legislators
have proven more willing to allocate additional money
for prisons than to increase spending on public
education.
Source: ACLU, “School-to-Prison Pipeline”
c. 2016
Senior Deputy Ben Fields forcibly removed a student after she refused to leave her high
school math class in Columbia, S.C. (AP, Oct 2015).
This sign, carried at the annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee celebration in Selma, Alabama, highlights
the connection between legal discrimination under Jim Crow laws and the racial dimensions of
the “carceral state” in the 21st century. The explosion of the national prison population began in
the early 1970s in the wake of the civil rights era.
• Slavery
• Lynching
• Segregation
…all racist institutions once
thought impossible to abolish.
“Slavery, lynching, and segregation are certainly
compelling examples of social institutions that, like the
prison, were once considered to be as everlasting as the
sun. Yet, in the case of all three examples, we can point
to movements that assumed the radical stance of
announcing the obsolescence of these institutions…
If we are already persuaded that racism should not be
allowed to define the planet’s future and if we can
successfully argue that prisons are racist institutions,
this may lead us to take seriously the prospect of
delcaring prisons obsolete.”
--Angela Davis
Davis asks, “Are prisons racist institutions?
Is racism so deeply entrenched in the
institution of the prison that it is not possible
to eliminate one without eliminating the
other?” (Are Prisons Obsolete? pg. 26).

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4.11.24 Mass Incarceration and the New Jim Crow.pptx

  • 1. Mass Incarceration and the “New Jim Crow”
  • 2. “Political Prisoners, Prisons, and Black Liberation” (1971) “Needless to say, the history of the United States has been marred from its inception by an enormous quantity of unjust laws, far too many expressly bolstering the oppression of black people….[F]or all nationally oppressed people, the problem of opposing unjust laws and the social conditions which nourish their growth has always had immediate practical implications. Our very survival has frequently been a direct function of our skill in forging effective channels of resistance….But even containing our resistance within the orbit of legality, we have been labeled criminals and have been methodically persecuted by a racist legal apparatus” (pp. 64-65).
  • 3.
  • 4. Davis asks, “Are prisons racist institutions? Is racism so deeply entrenched in the institution of the prison that it is not possible to eliminate one without eliminating the other?” (Are Prisons Obsolete? pg. 26).
  • 5. --13th Amendment (Ratified Dec 1865) “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
  • 6. Florida, 1915. Georgia, 1903. Black Codes and the Convict Lease System (emerged after Civil War) “…Black Codes proscribed a range of actions—such as vagrancy [homelessness], absence from work, breach of job contracts, the possession of firearms, and insulting gestures or acts—that were criminalized only when the person charged was black.” --Angela Davis, Are Prisons Obsolete?, pg. 28.
  • 7. Mississippi State Penitentiary (aka Parchman Farm), est. 1901
  • 8. (2003) The “Prison-Industrial Complex” This concept underscores the reality that building, maintaining, and operating prisons is big business. On average, $33,274 in government funds (tax dollars) were spent per prisoner in 2015. That year, Massachusetts spent more than $55,170 per inmate while New York spent $69,355. Many prisons are privately run, meaning they generate profit for a private business. Nearly 68 percent of these costs go to pay corrections officers, staff, and administrators. Source: Vera Institute for Justice, “Prison Spending in 2015.”
  • 9.
  • 10.
  • 11. Nixon’s “War on Drugs” In the 1990s, Nixon aide John Ehrlichman described the motivation for the administration’s so-called “War on Drugs”: “You want to know what this was really all about? The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
  • 12.
  • 13.
  • 14.
  • 15.
  • 16.
  • 17.
  • 18.
  • 19.
  • 20.
  • 21.
  • 22.
  • 23.
  • 25. Felon Disenfranchisement: What does this mean? • In 2020, about 5.17 million Americans (2.27 percent of voting eligible pop) were disenfranchised due to a felony conviction, down from 6.11 million in 2016 thanks to efforts to reform these laws. • 43 percent of those disenfranchised are in eleven states that impose restrictions on at least some groups even after their sentence is completed. • In AL, MS, and TN, more than eight percent of the adult population (one in thirteen people) is prevented from voting by these laws. In 2015, the 50th anniversary of the VRA, 30 percent of Black men in AL were barred from voting by felon disenfranchisement (Source: 13th). Source: The Sentencing Project, “Locked Out 2020: Estimates of People Denied Voting Rights Due to a Felony Conviction” (30 Oct 2020).
  • 26. Felon Disenfranchisement: What does this mean? (cont’d) • Florida, a pivotal swing state that decided the 2000 election in favor of George W. Bush, is the worst offender in terms of absolute numbers. Researchers at the Sentencing Project “estimate that nearly 900,000 Floridians who have completed their sentences remain disenfranchised, despite a 2018 ballot referendum that promised to restore their voting rights. Florida thus remains the nation’s disenfranchisement leader…with over 1.1 million people currently banned from voting – often because they cannot afford to pay court-ordered monetary sanctions or because the state is not obligated to tell them the amount of their sanction.” • About 6.2 percent of the adult Black population in the U.S. is disenfranchised, a rate 3.7 times higher than the non-Black population. In AL, FL, KY, MS, TN, VA, and WY, more than one in seven Black adults are disenfranchised by these laws. Source: The Sentencing Project, “Locked Out 2020: Estimates of People Denied Voting Rights Due to a Felony Conviction” (30 Oct 2020).
  • 27. (2010) “School-to-Prison Pipeline” This term acknowledges the link between deteriorating public education systems and the reality that youth from poor school districts are more likely than average to serve time in the juvenile or criminal justice systems. Often, students in these systems have learning disabilities or have been victimized by poverty or abuse. The ACLU notes, “‘Zero-tolerance’ policies criminalize minor infractions of school rules, while cops in schools lead to students being criminalized for behavior that should be handled inside the school. Students of color are especially vulnerable to push-out trends and the discriminatory application of discipline.” Legislators have proven more willing to allocate additional money for prisons than to increase spending on public education. Source: ACLU, “School-to-Prison Pipeline”
  • 29.
  • 30. Senior Deputy Ben Fields forcibly removed a student after she refused to leave her high school math class in Columbia, S.C. (AP, Oct 2015).
  • 31. This sign, carried at the annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee celebration in Selma, Alabama, highlights the connection between legal discrimination under Jim Crow laws and the racial dimensions of the “carceral state” in the 21st century. The explosion of the national prison population began in the early 1970s in the wake of the civil rights era.
  • 32. • Slavery • Lynching • Segregation …all racist institutions once thought impossible to abolish.
  • 33. “Slavery, lynching, and segregation are certainly compelling examples of social institutions that, like the prison, were once considered to be as everlasting as the sun. Yet, in the case of all three examples, we can point to movements that assumed the radical stance of announcing the obsolescence of these institutions… If we are already persuaded that racism should not be allowed to define the planet’s future and if we can successfully argue that prisons are racist institutions, this may lead us to take seriously the prospect of delcaring prisons obsolete.” --Angela Davis
  • 34. Davis asks, “Are prisons racist institutions? Is racism so deeply entrenched in the institution of the prison that it is not possible to eliminate one without eliminating the other?” (Are Prisons Obsolete? pg. 26).

Editor's Notes

  1. 1930s. Superintendent’s home.
  2. https://www.vera.org/publications/price-of-prisons-2015-state-spending-trends/price-of-prisons-2015-state-spending-trends/price-of-prisons-2015-state-spending-trends-prison-spending
  3. Foucault used the idea of 18th-century philosopher Jeremy Bentham of a panopticon to explain how contemporary society operates. The panopticon is a prison with a tower in the middle and cells all around an outer circle, such that a guard sitting in the center could, at any time, be looking into any one cell. Because of this, prisons began to monitor their own behavior.
  4. https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/locked-out-2020-estimates-of-people-denied-voting-rights-due-to-a-felony-conviction/
  5. https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/locked-out-2020-estimates-of-people-denied-voting-rights-due-to-a-felony-conviction/
  6. https://www.aclu.org/issues/juvenile-justice/school-prison-pipeline
  7. http://wclk.com/post/interrupting-school-prison-pipeline-dr-judi-peoples-advocate
  8. It is true that slavery, lynching, and segregation acquired such a stalwart ideological quality that many, if not most, could not foresee their decline ad collapse. Slavery, lynching, and segregation are certainly compelling examples of social institutions that, like the prison, were once considered to be as everlasting as the sun. Yet, in the case of all three examples, we can point to movements that assumed the radical stance of announcing the obsolescence of these institutions.”