Program #ALEM001. Recorded in Santa Fe, NM on September 12, 2012.
From the auction block to the cell block there is a trajectory from slavery to Jim Crow to the Drug War. The latter has resulted in mass jailings characterized by deep racial disparities. About one-third of young black men are likely to go to jail. The criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control. Millions of people, primarily poor people of color, have been swept into the nation’s prisons and then relegated to a permanent second-class status in which they are stripped of the basic civil and human rights supposedly won in the civil rights movement. The numbers are numbing. In all, 2.3 million are behind bars and another 4.8 million are on probation and parole. The more people locked up, the more profits for the Corrections Corporation of America, the largest private prison owner and operator.
Michelle Alexander is a professor of law at Ohio State University and holds a joint appointment at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. Formerly the director of the ACLU’s Racial Justice Project in Northern California, she served as a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun. She is the author of the bestseller “The New Jim Crow.”