Good Book Review About The New Jim Crow
Following the constitutional abolishment of slavery the Jim Crow laws were created by white men enraged by the Emancipation Proclamation. These “laws” moved black men and women back into inferior positions with very limited rights. (page 13)
The constitution was written without the use of the words black or Negro but the document also allowed the caste system already in place to continue and many provisions for slaveholders were put into place during that time. The use of the three-fifths system is among them. (page 15)
Jim Crow laws attempted to put blacks back into slavery positons by using a loophole in the 13th amendment that permitted slavery as a punishment for crime. (page 18)
Most believe that the Jim Crow era ended when Brown VS. Board of Education started but the system had begun to weaken long before and by 1945 had lost much of its pull. (page 21)
This first chapter of the book goes through a timeline of slavery in the United States from its inception to the modern day system that involves mass imprisonment of black men and women on criminal charges far less often applied to whites. I agree that the United States has had a checkered past filled with pain and horrible choices regarding black Americans and I believe that today profiling does occur. However, coming from a very racially diverse area I am also aware that the statistics regarding black crime rates are, at least somewhat, accurate. It is a sad fact that black men and women are statistically more likely to possess drugs and commit violent crimes. It is a cultural norm that can only be changed with the passage of time and dedicated men and women among the black community.
The War on Drugs has empowered police officers beyond the authority given to them by their states and the constitution. Officers feel that they have the right to search a person’s possessions and will coerce a citizen into giving permission, though that person feels as though he has no real choice. (Page 38-39)
The chances of receiving a lightened sentence for any reason are very low once convicted due the change in laws preventing judicial discretion in cases of drug possession. The author believes that oftentimes a lighter sentence or addiction counseling would be a better choice. (page 52)
While I agree that changing laws have affected the amount of people in our prison system and agree that different tactics need to be considered, I would also argue that the number of drug related offences could be lowered by a change within the black community as well. If more men and women within the community would make a point to encourage their peers to find another way to make a living or help those addicted find help these dramatic rates of imprisonment would lower without the need to lessen the severity of drug laws. I believe that our justice system has some inherent flaws and my heart shouldn’t stop when I see the lights of a police car regardless of whether or not I have done anything wrong, but we need to change cultural norms as well as laws.
Even those people that believe they are without bias may be acting on subconscious biases ingrained throughout our lives. Studies suggest that the public is more lenient on those people with lighter skin. (page 63)
Racial discrimination is most pronounced in the police system because they have discretion regarding who they search and the author believes that the Supreme Court has given them permission to discriminate. This makes sure that the vast majority of those arrested in the War on Drugs are black. (page 73)
Racial profiling has largely been swept under the rug and is no longer a public concern because of the Supreme Court ruling in the Alexander V. Sandoval case in 2001. The author argues that the ruling principally stated that victims of discrimination no longer have the legal right to sue on their own behalf. (page 81)
Defendants are not adequately informed of the rights that they forfeit when pleading guilty even if they are, in fact, innocent. Their whole lives change with a single statement. (page 110)
It is very difficult for those convicted of a felony to find legal employment after leaving prison even though it is often required as part of their parole. It is difficult to overcome the stereotypes associated with ex-felons. (page 115)
Shame accompanies imprisonment and leads to a lasting effect on families and black communities. They also feel as though they cannot talk to friends and family about the prevalence of incarceration within their family units. (page 128)
This chapter delves into the realities of life after imprisonment and all of the stereotypes that go along with it. I believe that we are naturally predisposed to distrust ex-felons and treat them as lesser human beings and this would be a difficult thing to change. Part of the blame for their actions must fall on the person that committed the crime but as a nation we can make more of an effort to look past the faults of our fellow citizens and judge them on the present actions. It is something I would not know how to go about changing.
There are more black adults in correctional facilities than there were enslaved in 1850. This has also lead to many black children being raised in broken homes. (page 138)
The book states that the differences between the current system of racial bias and the Jim Crow era are decidedly different but both operate under the same general premise of racial discrimination. They are different systems with the same effect of degrading all those who are not white. (page 149)
One major difference that sets the current system of mass imprisonment apart from its predecessors is that fact that many black people believe that ignoring the high crime rates in ghettos would be far worse than the current system. Many people argue that the tough laws increase the safety of residents. (page 153)
This book is interesting to read but also extremely biased. I would recommend it only with an addendum suggesting that the reader do his or her own research before fully believing the authors opinions on this topic. The author is very passionate and brings to light some relevant and controversial topics that need to be addressed within the United States criminal justice system. As long as the reader is able to understand that this is written from only one man’s perspective I would recommend it as it is important for us to challenge our perceptions of how we operate as a society and a country.
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