From Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, quoted here:
There are more African Americans under correctional control today — in prison or jail, on probation or parole — than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.
And that’s just the beginning:
As of 2004, more African American men were disenfranchised (due to felon disenfranchisement laws) than in 1870, the year the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified prohibiting laws that explicitly deny the right to vote on the basis of race.
A black child born today is less likely to be raised by both parents than a black child born during slavery. The recent disintegration of the African American family is due in large part to the mass imprisonment of black fathers.
If you take into account prisoners, a large majority of African American men in some urban areas, like Chicago, have been labeled felons for life. These men are part of a growing undercaste — not class, caste — a group of people who are permanently relegated, by law, to an inferior second-class status. They can be denied the right to vote, automatically excluded from juries, and legally discriminated against in employment, housing, access to education, and public benefits — much as their grandparents and great-grandparents once were during the Jim Crow era.
And there is one primary reason for all of this: the war on drugs. Blacks buy, sell and consume about 13-14% of the drugs bought, sold and consumed in this country — roughly equal to their percentage of the population. Yet blacks make up almost 50% of all incarcerations brought about by drug charges.
The war on drugs is destroying millions of lives and families, not to mention whole communities. It’s time to end it and replace it with a rational system of regulation that focuses on drug abuse as a public health problem rather than on imprisonment.