Sianna Velez – Discussion Board 2.1

1. M. Alexander claims that the main explanation of why so many people are sent to jail in the U.S. today is deeply wrong because the government claims it’s because of they were trying to fight the crisis caused by crack cocaine. But, Ronald Regan declared the War on Drugs in 1982, 3 years before crack was an issue. In 1985, after Regan declared the War on Drugs, is when crack started to spread throughout poor black neighborhoods. In the reading 2.1, it states, “Almost overnight, the media was saturated with images of black ‘crack whores’, ‘crack dealers’, and ‘crack babies’- images that seemed to confirm the worst negative racial stereotypes.” This presents the argument that the War on Drugs could possibly be an attempt to make black people look like criminals/look bad or to reinforce stereotypes. After the War on Drugs was declared, arrests skyrocketed, especially with people of color. 
 
2. Racial disparities in the rates of incarceration “cannot be explained by rates of drug crimes” because black men are admitted to prison more than white men. Even though according to the reading, studies have been done that “show that people of all colors use and sell illegal drugs at remarkably similar rates”. The studies also showed that “white youth, are more likely to engage in drug crime than people of color. This shows that the rates of drug crimes are inaccurate because people of color are arrested more than white people even though both use and sell drugs at the same rate. 
 
3. I think the phrase “the American penal system has emerged as a system of social control unparalleled in world history.” means that incarceration is a form of social control where the government can “put minorities in their place”. I think incarceration is another way for the government to target minorities just like slavery, segregation, and Jim Crow. 

Clarissa Carrillo- DB 2.1

  1. Michelle Alexander states that the main explanation of why so many people are sent to jail in the U.S today is due to drug related crimes. However, Alexander states that using this as an explanation is wrong seeing as to most of those being sent to jail are minorities- especially Blacks- facing harsher sentences than those who are white, even when white people are those who commit drug related crimes a lot more often than people of color. Those who are convicted of drug related crimes also face harsher punishment than prisoners in other countries with serious human rights violations. Lastly, the U.S as a whole has a higher rate of imprisonment than countries such as Russia, China, and Iran, whom have highly repressive regimes, as stated by Alexander.
  2. The racial disparities in the rates of incarceration can not be explained by the rates of drug rhymes because as M. Alexander stated, there are studies proving that people of all colors sell and use drugs at essentially the same rates. Not only that, but she also states that surveys have shown that white youth are more likely to participate in drug crime than people of color.
  3. I think the phrase “the American penal system has emerged as a system of social control unparalleled in world history” means people are being imprisoned as a way to control certain groups, such as minorities, since they are the ones making the vast majority of prison populations. Instead of prison being used as a way to help and reform, it is being used to keep people- minorities- in “their place.”

Discussion 2.1- Jasmin Amigon

1. M. Alexander claims that the main explanation of why so many people are sent to jail in the U.S. today is deeply wrong. She states states that many people are sent to jail in the U.S by the government’s “zealous” efforts to address rampant drug crime in poor, minority neighborhoods. This is why there is a major increase in mass incarceration in the United States. The media created negative racial stereotypes about poor city residents especially the poor African American communities.  

2. Racial disparities in rates of incarceration can’t be explained by rates of drug crimes because studies have revealed that people of all ethnicities sell and use drugs at essentially similar rates. Not only minorities use drugs, they can be consumed by anyone but we see media and society perceive minorities as only using or selling drugs. 

3. Social media has a strong influence on society and their perception of the black community and racist stereotypes have influenced the American Penal System. Governments mass incarcerations of the black community and use of punishment is a form of social control.

M. Alexander/“War on Drugs” Response

  1. Opening with the summary of the origins and aftermath of the War on Drugs in relation to the crack epidemic in urban communities, Alexander takes a closer look at the disproportionate incarceration rates of minorities. Alexander notes that “the War on Drugs began at a time when illegal drug use was on the decline.6 During this same time period, however, a war was declared, causing arrests and convictions for drug offenses to skyrocket, especially among people of color. (p. 6)” Though drug-related transactions are illegal no matter who engages, minorities became the focal point of the drug war due to heavy drug use spreading in Black communities. She goes on to mention how illegal drug activity has not been exclusive to black and brown communities — “Studies show that people of all colors use and sell illegal drugs at remarkably similar rates. (p. 7)” and furthermore “In some states, black men have been admitted to prison on drug charges at rates twenty to fifty times greater than those of white men. (p. 7)” With minors having higher chance of ending up in prison for drug charges, it does not mean they are the only group engaging in drug activity.

2. Alexander mentions “whites, particularly white youth, are more likely to engage in drug crime than people of color. (p. 7)” Seeing who is in prison for drug crime — which would be significantly more people of color — may not be a total representation of who is engaging in drug activity.

3. To me it expresses how disproportionate the incarceration rates are directed at blacks and minorities as a whole. Not to mention, overall, the American penal system has higher incarceration rate of people overall in comparison to other countries.

Discussion 2.1 – Justine Lazdina

M. Alexander claims that the widely accepted explanation for why so many people in the US are sent to jail is wrong by giving examples of studies that show the same amount of crime as US in other countries, yet the punishment in US is much harsher with many more people ending up in prison. The amount of prisoners is even higher in US than countries with serious human rights violations like Russia and Iran.

The racial disparities in the rates of incarceration ” cannot be explained by rates of drug crimes” due to studies, mentioned by M. Alexander, that show about the same amount of drug use among people of all races. These studies also showed that there is a slightly higher instance of whites selling drugs than their non-white counterparts.

I understand the phrase “the American penal system has emerges as a system of social control unparalleled in the world history” by interpreting it to mean that the American penal system is deeply corrupt and is being used to control certain groups within the country. This level of control and it’s negative impact is worse than other systems/tyrannies that have come before it, like that of the Apartheid in South Africa.

DB 2.1

  1. M. Alexander claims that the main explanation of why so many people are sent to jail in the U.S. today is deeply wrong. Explain her argument by referring to the various examples she mentions to back up her point. (see p. 1-2)

Alexander traces discriminatory policies through the last century, beginning with Jim Crow laws in post-Reconstruction America. When the Civil Rights movement of the 50s and 60s turned to direct action to draw attention to the segregationist laws, conservatives created propaganda around the idea that integration and the protests against segregation were “a threat to law and order” (Alexander 41). Even after some forms of segregation were federally outlawed with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, “the public debate shifted focus from segregation to crime” (Alexander 42).

This is the precursor to the racist policies of the 80s and today. People are criminalized for being poor, and for drug possession, but these groups were created as scapegoats for the displaced racism of white people feeling threatened by integration. Politicians across the aisle have used the false narrative of scarcity as we imagine it to exist in our capitalist society to drive groups apart, because, as Alexander notes, the “resentment of white working-class voters” about disproportionality being threatened by integration is a powerful force (45).

  1. Why is it that racial disparities in the rates of incarceration “cannot be explained by rates of drug crimes”?

Racial disparities in the rates of incarceration exist because drug use and possession was criminalized as a “race-neutral” way of maintaining the racial hierarchy (Alexander 40). This means that to maintain a slightly more subtle form of racism, specific drugs were criminalized based on racial affiliations.

As we incarcerate higher rates of POC, especially black men, we do not see a higher rate of drug use between white and black populations; the difference is at the intersection of race and wealth, not wrongdoing. Instead of providing resources to assist people who need it, we have decided to continue to criminalize behaviors that disproportionately target poor and black communities.

  1. How do you understand the phrase: “the American penal system has emerged as a system of social control unparalleled in world history.”?

The American penal system is unentanglable from race, and is a legalized form of racism. It keeps groups segregated, maintains poverty and prevents social mobility, and is overtly an attempt to control redistribution of wealth to vulnerable populations.

“The New Jim Crow” Comments by Carmen Salas.

1. M. Alexander claims that the main explanation of why so many people are sent to jail in the U.S. today is deeply wrong. Explain her argument by referring to the various examples she mentions to backup her point. (see p. 1-2)

In the introduction of “The New Jim Crow”, Michelle Alexander claims that the “facts” given to start a War on Drugs during Regan’s presidency are all a lie. In fact, Alexander argues that the war on drugs was not a response to a crisis caused by crack cocaine in inner-city neighborhoods; as most people think it was. Instead she maintains: “an illegal drug crisis suddenly appeared in the black community after—not before—a drug war had been declared” (Alexander, 6). That is to say, the illegal drug crisis in the black community started because of the drug war itself, not the other way around. Similarly, she asserts that: “the War on Drugs began at a time when illegal drug use was on the decline” (Alexander, 6). In short, there was not really a crisis when the Drug War had been started. Then, if it is factually proven that there wasn’t a crisis with drug use, which is the real reason behind this war? Alexander suggests that there had been hidden intentions of the actual use of this Drug War. She proposes that it was used as an excuse for United States government to exercise social control over black communities and minorities.

2. Why is it that racial disparities in the rates of incarceration “cannot be explained by rates of drug crimes”?

Michelle Alexander states that racial disparities in the rates of incarceration cannot be explained by rates of drug crimes because : “Studies show that people of all colors use and sell illegal drugs at remarkably similar rates” (Alexander, 7). That is to say, there is not a difference of color in the rates of people who use and sell drugs, they are the same. However, there is a difference in the rates of incarceration of people of color and those who are white. Actually, Alexander emphasizes: “In some states, black men have been admitted to prison on drug charges at rates twenty to fifty times greater than those of white men. And in major cities wracked by the drug war, as many as 80 percent of young African American men now have criminal records” (Alexander, 7). To conclude, people of all colors do use and sell illegal drugs, however the black community and minorities are the ones’ obsessively persecuted and hardly punished for those crimes.

3. How do you understand the phrase: “the American penal system has emerged as a system of social control unparalleled in world history.”?

I understand from it that the American penal system has become a tool for social control. Also, I understand that this system has so much power, that it can’t be compared with no other in the world, as well as it has nothing to be compared to with the prior penal systems in the totality of the world’s history.

Ignacio Salas on Alexander’s New Jim Crow

1. M. Alexander’s argument is based in the study of how the War on Drugs started when drug crimes were in decline, and that how a few years later, crack cocaine started to spread rapidly in the poor black neighborhoods of America. In fact, the media, supported by Reagan’s administration brought to the public eye the stereotype as the enemy of the War on Drugs, who were mostly poor black Americans. M. Alexander also contrasts the hugely different outcome of convictions and sentences between whites and people of color, even though all colors use and sell illegal drugs in a similar rate, and the ones more likely to engage in drug crimes are the young white Americans. Consequently, this puts a large number of persons of color specially blacks in the outskirts of society due to the type of image and criminal records they’ve been given due to the War on Drugs, therefore, Alexander suggests that the main explanation of why so many people are sent to jail, is because, the American government uses this as tool of social control against minorities and people of color.

2. The racial disparities cannot be explained because all colors sell and use drugs in a similar rate. White young Americans engage more often in drug crimes, still when people of color see themselves in the same situation, they can get sentences that are as M. Alexander says, “twenty to fifty times greater than those of white men”, creating a disparity, as seen in some major cities affected by the War on Drugs, where as many as 80% of young African Americans have a criminal record.

3. I understand the phrase “the American penal system has emerged as a system of social control unparalleled in world history.” as that the penal system is a tool of social control from the American government towards minorities, where they control their liberty and as they have already entered the penal system due to a crime it also controls their future because these subjects of incarceration end up living as outcasts of mainstream society, and that this way of control has never been seen in history before.

Nikita Vasilyev – D.B. 2.1

  1. Michelle Alexander argues, that behind the mass incarceration in the U.S. stand the results of the media propaganda of the Reagan administration which made numerous efforts to present poor inner-city residents as illegal drug users. This media campaign supported the War on Drugs, which actually started years before crack cocaine became a problem in poor neighborhoods. Alexander mentions the CIA’s support of Nicaraguan guerilla armies which smuggled crack cocaine into the United States and reminds us of the fact that the CIA blocked efforts to investigate the matter. Further Alexander brings our attention not only to the fact that the War on Drugs began when the drug use was declining, but that illegal drugs made their appearance in the black community after the war had been declared.
  2. Michelle Alexander claims that surveys and studies have shown that people of all colors use and sell drugs at similar rates, yet the nation’s jails and prisons have a disproportionally large number of black and brown drug offenders who are “subject to legalized discrimination for the rest of their lives”. It seems that racial discrimination is still present in prison admittance – Alexander mentions that “in some states, black men have been admitted to prison on drug charges at rates twenty to fifty times greater than those of white men.” 
  3. I think the reference here is made to government’s use of punishment as a “tool for social control”, especially in the light of the fact that the crime rates in the U.S. have not been higher than those of other Western countries, while the incarceration has soared. Considering the concentration of racial minorities in jails and prisons, the argument could be made that the emergence of such penal system is indeed unparalleled.   

Gladys Tavera- Discussion B. 2.1

  1. Crack cocaine began in the early 1980s. People go to jail because of the possession of drugs. According to the article, crack cocaine started to spread rapidly in poor black neighborhoods in the United States. Michelle Alexander’s shows that mainstream American has so many people in prison also known as mass incarceration is the fact that there’s a lot being committed.  “Alexander also contrasts the hugely different outcome of convictions and sentences between whites and people of color, even though all colors use and sell illegal drugs at a similar rate” This basically means that most people who use drugs are more likely to be involved in drug-related crimes than are young white Americans.

2. Racial disparities in the rates of incarceration cannot be explained by the rates of drug crimes because all ethnicities in America or in races hate to use the word racist because there are no races among humans. Drug use is widespread. Any American from any social stratification or groups can be potentially a drug user or drug addict. In fact that minorities people of color are over represented in the criminal justice system in the prisons it’s not because people of color use drugs that’s not real. 

3. In my point of view “the American penal system has emerged as a system of social control unparalleled in world history” means that the American criminal system is profoundly corrupt and is being used to control specific groups within the country. Also given the high prevalence of racial minorities in jails and prisons, one could argue that the establishment of such a criminal justice system is unprecedented.