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ERIC Number: EJ1032323
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2014
Pages: 10
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0046-760X
Mass Incarceration and the Making of Citizens
Justice, Benjamin
History of Education, v43 n3 p408-417 2014
Like laws for formal education, laws for crime and punishment shape the relationship between the citizen and the state. They could, in fact, be equally powerful in building or breaking the civic spirit. In the past three decades, a revolution has occurred in the United States that is as insidious as it is unprecedented: the rise of the American "carceral state". Recent authors have described mass incarceration in the starkest terms: an epidemic; a new Jim Crow; a collapse. The United States now incarcerates a larger percentage of its population than any nation on earth. In 2012, the Department of Justice reported that the United States locked up over 2.2 million people, or approximately 716 per 100,000 residents. If we add to these 2.2 million Americans behind bars another five million who are not physically imprisoned, but who live directly monitored lives on probation or parole, the scope of the American "carceral" state is truly staggering. It is one of the saddest ironies of the last century that within a generation of winning the Cold War, the United States now easily surpasses former communist countries in its willingness to imprison its people. Benjamin Justice points out in this article that there is a racial dimension of mass incarceration as well. Black males in every age group are six to eight times more likely than their white counterparts to go to prison, with concentrations in many poor urban centres rivalling participation in public schooling. This racial component to incarceration has no precedent in American history, despite the country's long history of slavery and apartheid. Justice argues that if we are to understand how the spirit of the law quickens the political body, education historians must account for the causes and civic consequences of mass incarceration in the United States. Here, Justice provides titles of three recent books which point the reader toward this task. In this article, Justice refers to these three authors as he presents a discussion of the effects of mass incarceration--and the implications for historians of education--through the eyes of those who experience it first or second hand, with particular attention on African-Americans and, to a lesser extent, the poor in general. The titles and authors contained in this discussion are: (1) "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness" (Michelle Alexander); (2) "A Plague of Prisons: The Epidemiology of Mass Incarceration in America" (Earnest Drucker); and (3) The Collapse of American Criminal Justice (William Stuntz).
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A