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Mass Incarceration in America: The New Jim Crow and the Prison Industrial Complex

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Giulia Girgenti

on 20 January 2014

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Transcript of Mass Incarceration in America: The New Jim Crow and the Prison Industrial Complex

How has the expansion of the prison system in the U.S. impacted the nation and its citizens?
Birth of Mass Incarceration: How and Why
Civil Rights Movement
Dejure Segregation
Short term gains
Persisting Economic Inequality
Southern Strategy
Success of the
Civil Rights Movement focused
largely towards socio-political gains:
Ending dejure segregation
Securing voting rights
Securing access to jobs/education
...while doing little to address persisting economic inequality between blacks and whites.
Reconstruction Amendments abolished slavery/involuntary servitude, established equal protection and due process, and extended right to vote to freedmen.
Increased political representation, on both state and federal level
133 Black legislators in Louisiana between 1868 and 1886 (38 senators, 95 representatives)
22 Black legislators in Congress between 1869 and 1901 (2 senators, 20 representatives)
Former plantation owners over-whelmed with resentment towards drastic change
Black Codes implemented to reinstate sense of control; varied in their transparency
Restriction in voting
Segregation of public facilities
Formation of KKK and overall demonization of the Black man
Plessy v. Ferguson established "separate but equal" justification for segregation
African-Americans were discriminated against in education, public facilities, employment, housing, armed forces, federal agencies...
Implementing the
Drug War
Private Companies
Step In
Martin Luther King, Jr.
proposed "nothing less than a radical transformation of the Civil Rights
Movement into a populist crusade
calling for redistribution of economic
and political power,” promising to
address not only Black poverty, but white poverty as well.
Uprisings in urban centers spread across country through 1960s
Watts, Los Angeles, 1965
Chicago, 1966
Total of 70 cities in 1967
NAACP took
on legal cases to enforce separate but equal before attempting to undo it.
Brown v. Board of Ed case sparked momentum in mid 1950s.
Montgomery Bus Boycott began cycle of nonviolent campaigns
to desegregate public facilites and achieve political protection and recognition.
Civil Rights Act of 1957
Civil Rights Act of 1960
Civil Rights Act of 1964
Voting Rights Act of 1965
Civil Rights Act of 1968
Greensboro, SC sit-in
Freedom Rides
Mississippi Summer
President Richard Nixon's racially-coded language about "law and order" lured in resentful Southern whites.
Strategy picked up by other conservatives, proved to be very effective in drawing in voters.
Inspiration from Rockerfeller's 1973 punitive drug laws
Shift from rehabilitation to punishment
Reagan's tough-on-crime policies during his administrative control in the 1980s
Corrections Corporation of America forms in 1983, receives federal contract to take over prison in Hamilton County, TN.
GEO Group, Inc., forms in 1984 and begins receiving federal contracts in 1987.
Further Reading
The New Jim Crow
Employment Discrimination
Felon Disenfranchisement
Housing Discrimination
Prisoner Relocation
Critiques of the New Jim Crow
The Prison Industrial Complex
National incarceration rate - 750 per 100,000
Black men - 3059 per 100,000
White men - 456 per 100,000
Black men 5.6 more likely to be incarcerated
60% of prisonsers are POC, vs. 25% of U.S. population
43 states hold no standards for private employers/licensers regarding history of conviction
34 hold no standards for public employers
Association between race and criminality add extra element of discrimination
HUD screens public housing applicants for criminal record
Focus placed on "drug dealers"
No-fault clause in public housing lease justifies right to evict tenant without warning if evidence of criminal activity if found
discrimination today less explicit, more pervasive
Denial of employment based on race/gender/ethnicity/religion outlawed by Civil Rights Act of 1964, but when discretion is permittied, discrimination persists
FHA policy:
"if a neighborhood is to retain stability it is necessary that properties shall be continued to be occupied by the same social and racial classes.”
Disenfranchisement during Reconstruction:
Combination of poll taxes, grandfather clause, and targeting those with a criminal history
States vary on level of disenfranchisement
1 in 41 Americans, and 1 in 12 African-Americans, are disenfranchised
Southern states have highest rates of African-American disenfranchisement
Relocation of prisoners affects "one person, one vote" model
Prisons counted as "group quarters"
Most serving in prison come from poor, urban congressional districts, are relocated to rural areas who reap political/economic benefits
"Representatives and direct
Taxes shall be apportioned among
the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Numbers
of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other persons."
Proponents of analogy ignore dissimilarities: Black support for punitive crime policy
Forman doesn't recognize politics of respectability, history of compliance with oppression as a means of survival
Private Prison Giants
Political Lobbying
Effect on Legislation
Prison Labor and Consumer Culture
Private Prisons Save Public Money?
"We save you money! Give us contracts, local/state/federal agencies!"
Private prisons cut costs by:
threatening security
decreasing living conditions
exporting high-cost prisoners
Taxpayer costs increase while quality of other public services decrease
-The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.
-Racializing Justice, Disenfranchising Lives: The Racism, Criminal Justice and Law Reader by Manning Marable, Ian Steinberg, and Keesha Middlemass.
-Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress — and a Plan to Stop It by Lawrence Lessig.
-Culture, Capitalism, and Democracy in the New America by Richard Harvey Brown.

CCA and GEO Group monopolizing the private prison scene since the early 1980s
2012 gross revenue reported $1.7 billion, $1.4 billion
GEO reports 56% increase in profits for Q1 of 2013
Flow of revenue promised by punitive drug/immigration policy
PPCs have financial incentive to block reform efforts
Extensive lobbying and partnership with ALEC ensures constant "demand for service"
Globalization shrunk U.S. industrial employment rates through 1980s
Prison labor - opportunity to bring sweatshops back to the U.S.
Private prison companies construct entire sector of prison-factories paying far below minimum wage, with no benefits.
Immigration policy in AZ
More than 80% of SB 1070 supporters received campaign contributions from PPCs
ALEC pushing for mandatory minimum sentencing provisions and other harsh penalties for drug offenses
The Road Ahead...
Works Cited
Fraser, Steve. "Locking Down An American Workforce." Huffington Post 20 Apr 2012, n. pag. Web. 23 Jun. 2013. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-fraser/private-prisons-_b_1439201.html>.Flatow, Nicole. "Private Prison Profits Skyrocket, As Executives Assure Investors Of ‘Growing Offender Population’." ThinkProgress 9 May 2013, n. pag. Web. 24 Jun. 2013. <http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2013/05/09/1990331/private-prison-profits-skyrocket-as-executives-assure-investors-of-growing-offender-population/>.
Levister, Chris. "A Sweatshop Behind Bars." Alternet 12 Sep 2006, n. pag. Web. 24 Jun. 2013. <http://www.alternet.org/story/41481/a_sweatshop_behind_bars>.
Eric Lotke and Peter Wagner, Prisoners of the Census: Electoral and Financial Consequences of Counting Prisoners Where They Go, Not Where They Come From, 24 Pace L. Rev. 587 (2004). 590. Available at: http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/plr/vol24/iss2/9
Wade, Lisa, Phd. "Prison Labor and Taxpayer Dollars." Sociological Images 4 Apr 2013, n. pag. Web. 24 Jun. 2013. <http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2013/04/04/prison-labor-and-taxpayer-dollars/>.
Movement to end mass incarceration, one that openly discusses race
Right-Left coalition, already somewhat underway
Issue to tackle include: drug policy reform, immigration reform, corporate influence in politics, relationship btwn capitalism and racism
Full transcript