Alexander’s Argument Mass Incarceration Is the New Jim Crow

Categories: Criminology

First, Alexander begins her book by providing history about race and racism in America. She informs the readers about many events, such as, slavery, Jim Crow, the end of Jim Crow, Reconstruction, Populism, and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. She goes into explain how African Americans were being unfairly targeted by law enforcement and how they still are to this day. Then, Alexander brings up the idea of comparing mass incarceration to Jim Crow because mass incarceration is a new racial system that is around the same lines as slavery.

Like slavery, mass incarceration has invisible consequences, making the discrimination legal. They are invisible due to the fact it does not effect everyone in America, therefore most will not see the wrong being done. The comparison between the old and the new Jim Crow is not exactly the same but there are many similarities and she explains why she calls mass incarceration the New Jim Crow. She looks into how African Americans are affected by mass incarceration.

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Then she describes how the criminal justice system works. She breaks down each step from the arresting, when they are charged and incarcerated, all for a drug offense. This helps the reader understand exactly what happens during the process. Alexander then begins to discuss War on Drugs and argues that an important part of it is the way the police are trained and how they have little supervision. Police officers were allowed to stop people for no reason, usually with poor judgment, and this was called “stop and frisk.

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” Alexander then moves on and informs the readers of how courtrooms were unfair after the War on Drugs began.

Then, Alexander explores the criminal justice system and the racial discrimination within it. She finds out that 80-90% of people charged with drug abuse are African American. This comes off poorly and society puts a stigma on the black culture. The black culture is now seen as harmful and suspicious. This unfair bias is then created from the racial discrimination. She brings up facts to support her argument, such as African American being on juries. African Americans are typically not allowed to serve on the juries, which means many African Americans are tried by all-white juries. Alexander then goes on to mention the stigma that goes along with being a convicted felon in today’s society. Most people convicted of crimes are not aware of how much their lives will be affected by being defined as criminals and how society will now see them as outcastes.

Alexander finalizes her argument by saying in order to change or bring awareness to the issue of mass incarceration, society needs to know what is going on and know it is indeed going on. Majority of people do not think about the issue due to the fact it does not affect them. Alexander then reviews the similarities and differences between Jim Crow and mass incarceration. Her ending remarks are that America should not get caught up on smaller issues that are on personal levels, but see the bigger picture of removing the system completely. She then mentions ways of reforming the criminal justice system, such as, ending racial profiling, performing police culture, legalizing marijuana and possibly other drugs, ending federal grants of drug use, getting away from companies benefiting from prisons, and many other ideas.

One aspect Alexander mentions about reforming the justice system is by legalizing marijuana and other drugs. I disagree with her argument, I do not think the facts are supported enough to be true. But this could be all based on opinion, but my opinion is that legalizing drugs is not going to decrease crime rates. If you think about it as alcohol, the crime is still occurring and still getting worse within alcohol abuse. Typically when it is illegal there are more crime rates because people are being arrested, yes, but the crime rate is still visible with or without the drugs. More crimes will be committed if legalized, such as DUIs, and more often than not one drug will lead to another causing more issues. If marijuana becomes legal, then harder drugs will become more popular because they are harder to get and give a better high. Harder drugs have worse effects on society and the crimes being done.

Alexander is very bias in her argument, not that I do not agree with most of her points and they are backed up with good evidence, but she only focuses on the people who are poor and people of color. The criminal justice system is not just poorly designed for people of color. White people who may have the money but the system is still wrongly designed for them. A white man who can afford bail still lives in chains because he has to live as a felon. He may not be stuck in prison for life but his life is poor too because of how the system is done, and how society reacts to it. I just felt as a white person reading this book, that it was only about people of color, but that is not the case.

One point in her book that I do agree with is the life of someone with a felon. Felons are never going to live a normal life after doing their time. More likely than not, they are under the impression after they get out of jail they can restart their life, that is not the case. No one wants to hire felons, some do not rent to felons, food stamps are not provided, they cannot vote or have any say in this country. It is not fair for one to do their time, pay their fines, and still be locked up even when they are free. Felons will always remain in chains no matter how rehabilitated they are. The system gives felons no chance of renewal in life. Alexander mentions how a felons life is and I agree with her opinion on how it is wrong.  Alexander argues that, contrary to the views of many people, poor people of color simply want to live ordinary, safe, and healthy lives, but do not have the opportunities or resources to make this happen for themselves. It is almost impossible to live the ordinary life they wish to live.

The New Jim Crow was a well-written argument that was supported by Alexander. I agreed with a majority of her points, and the ones I did not was only because of slight disagreements. I believe the whole book is to prove opportunities are being taken from millions of incarcerated individuals. Will her reforming ideas be set into action and work? There is only one way to find out. But the criminal justice system needs a change and she provided many different ways to do so.

Updated: Nov 01, 2022
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Alexander’s Argument Mass Incarceration Is the New Jim Crow. (2022, Sep 14). Retrieved from

Alexander’s Argument Mass Incarceration Is the New Jim Crow essay
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