[The New Jim Crow] argues that the War on Drugs has created a new sort of way to lock up, stigmatize, and economically and socially destroy large groups of people of color. Michelle Alexander says those who are targeted by racist law enforcement in stop and frisks and searches, prosecuted on flimsy evidence by over zealous prosecutors, and dealt harsh sentences by judges using mandatory minimums and sentence enhancements are effectively locked away for large portions of their life for largely nonviolent drug offenses. To give you an idea of how much prisons have expanded over the last 40 years, you’d have to release 4 out of every 5 prisoners to return to incarceration rates of the 1970s. That’s unbelievable.
Michelle Alexander gives insight into the harsh life awaiting people after their release or plea bargain that brands them felons; in many states, folks with felony records are barred from voting, public housing, federal education loans, safety net programs, professional licensure, and even food stamps. Coupled with the fact that employers can freely discriminate against people with felony records in hiring (you’ve seen the “check here if you’ve ever been convicted of a felony” box on applications, right?), unemployment and gutted safety nets leave folks stranded, treated like second-class citizens.