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The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

1,529 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1595586438
ISBN-10: 1595586431
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


Devastating. . . . Alexander does a fine job of truth-telling, pointing a finger where it rightly should be pointed: at all of us, liberal and conservative, white and black.

Alexander is absolutely right to fight for what she describes as a “much-needed conversation” about the wide-ranging social costs and divisive racial impact of our
criminal-justice policies.

Invaluable . . . a timely and stunning guide to the labyrinth of propaganda, discrimination, and racist policies masquerading under other names that comprises what we call justice in America.
Daily Kos

Many critics have cast doubt on the proclamations of racism’s erasure in the Obama era, but few have presented a case as powerful as Alexander’s.
In These Times

Carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable.
Publishers Weekly

[Written] with rare clarity, depth, and candor.

A call to action for everyone concerned with racial justice and an important tool for anyone concerned with understanding and dismantling this oppressive system.

Undoubtedly the most important book published in this century about the U.S.
Birmingham News

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: The New Press (January 16, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595586431
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595586438
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,529 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #646 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

A longtime civil rights advocate and litigator, Michelle Alexander won a 2005 Soros Justice Fellowship and now holds a joint appointment at the Moritz College of Law and the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University. Alexander served for several years as the director of the Racial Justice Project at the ACLU of Northern California, which spearheaded the national campaign against racial profiling. At the beginning of her career she served as a law clerk on the United States Supreme Court for Justice Harry Blackmun. She lives outside Columbus, Ohio.

Amazon Author Rankbeta 

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#71 in Books > History
#71 in Books > History

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

638 of 682 people found the following review helpful By Middle-aged Professor on February 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Thirty years ago, fewer than 350,000 people were held in prisons and jails in the United States. Today, the number of inmates in the United States exceeds 2,000,000. In this book, Alexander argues that this system of mass incarceration "operates as a tightly networked system of laws, policies, customs, and institutions that operate collectively to ensure the subordinate status of a group defined largely by race." The War on Drugs, the book contends, has created "a lower caste of individuals who are permanently barred by law and custom from mainstream society." Mass incarceration, and the disabilities that come with the label "felon," serve, metaphorically, as the new Jim Crow.

The book develops this argument with systematic care. The first chapter provides context with a brief history of the rise, fall and interrelation of the first two racial caste systems in the United States, slavery and Jim Crow. Subsequent chapters provide close scrutiny of the system of mass incarceration that has arisen over the past thirty years, examining each stage of the process (e.g., criminalization, investigation, prosecution, sentencing) and the many collateral consequences of a felony conviction (entirely apart from any prison time) and how and why each of these has operated to the detriment of African-Americans. The book also explores how the caste system Alexander identifies is different and not-so-different from Jim Crow, the many political and economic forces now invested in sustaining it, and how it has been rendered virtually immune to challenge through litigation.
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678 of 753 people found the following review helpful By Randall L. Wilson on May 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm a white man and I carry with me the cultural legacy of racism. I know I'm not alone but I don't find many other white people who are willing to venture into this uncomfortable territory and own up to our own racism. And while I've had a few conversations about race with black men, I must say I feel like I'm venturing into dangerous territory - how do I transcend the privilege I've had as an socio-econonmically advantaged white man to connect to those who rightly see me and my kind as an oppressor?

This was a hard book to read. I said that about "Slavery by Another Name" as well which is the companion book to this one as they both address a white power structure that uses prisons to humiliate, degrade, diminish and control black people. "Slavery by Another Name" addresses this phenomenon during Jim Crow and "The New Jim Crow" addresses how we've been doing this for the past thirty years.

To the extent white people and non-black minorities I know talk about race, its about why blacks continue to languish at the bottom of the American barrel. If other ethnic groups that have experienced discrimination manage to overcome it and prosper as Americans, what is wrong with blacks? I've always said it was slavery and its legacy, the Jim Crow era and its deprivations but now I realize that the story is even more complex, black men have been disproportionately single out for prison time, causing entire families to suffer the economic loss, the social stigma and family shame that accompanies such imprisonment.

I remember the O.J. trial and how whites were "shocked" that blacks had such a different take on the police and criminal justice.
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311 of 347 people found the following review helpful By Van Jones on January 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Law Professor Michelle Alexander's long-anticipated debut puts a bright light directly on what is perhaps our greatest national shame: the extraordinary rates of incarceration for people of color in the United States.

Her writing is lucid and gripping; her arguments are clear and concise; her conclusions often are inescapable. She powerfully makes the case that the incarceration industry has become to the 21st Century what Jim Crow segregation was to the 20th: a system that undermines American ideals of justice, while reinforcing social inequality.

In what many hope will be a "post-racial" era, Ms. Alexander's voice is a courageous one. Even as she rightfully celebrates progress at many levels, she refuses to let our society ignore the fact that a million or more people of color are imprisoned today (out of all proportion to their numbers in the population AND even out of all proportion to their rate of criminal offenses, as documented by the government).

More importantly, she dares to ask (and attempts to answer) the simple question: how can this be happening in our country today?

Impeccably well-argued, "The New Jim Crow" is an inspired work - representing the debut of a bright, new and important voice in American life and letters.
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136 of 155 people found the following review helpful By N. Rotenberg on April 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I have just put down Michelle Alexander's book after reading the very last word and I don't know what to say. I am literally so in awe, so grateful for her work, so amazed at her talent and gifts that I am truly without words to describe how I feel or what I think.

I am normally a very quick read but her book forced me to slow down. Not a word or sentence was unnecessary but rather so incredibly meaningful, meaty, and educational that I found myself only being able to read when I was well-rested and undisturbed. I am amazed at how effectively and clearly she informed the reader, me, about the current state of our justice system, the experience of police encounters (which was infuriating and would fill me with rage), and how the laws serve to disempower people and make them disappear. How she moved from data-driven, legal, educational, & rational arguments to a passionate appeal for change and a sharing of a real vision is astonishing.

I love how she writes, so clear and with a crescendo of support for her thesis, and what she wrote about. I'm truly grateful for this piece of work. The book is truly inspiring as it is mystifying that we are where we are. I haven't been able to stop telling people about her book but sadly am not nearly as eloquent and struggle to explain concisely the arguments.

I wish everyone would read this body of work. Well done!
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