Thursday, February 23, 2017

Mass Incarceration perpetuates racial caste system

Alexander defines “racial caste” as a racial group locked into an inferior position by law and custom. She asserts that Jim Crow and slavery were caste systems, and that our current system of mass incarceration is also a caste system. She gives us many reasons to persuade us that mass incarceration perpetuates the racial caste system nowadays after civil rights movement even though it achieved abolishing Jim Crow.

First, Alexander believes that mass incarceration was created due to the same reason that Jim Crow was invented, which is the “desire among white elites to exploit the resentments, vulnerabilities, and racial biases of poor and working-class whites for political or economic gain.” (Lesson 9, 1) Second, Alexander states that both Jim Crow and mass incarceration legalize discrimination against black people. Specifically, through the mass incarceration, white elites are able to build up a connection between black people with criminals. Through the legal system, black people trapped into relatively more serious punishment in terms of their crimes. Through this system, it makes people legally discriminate black people in terms of their “potential criminal figures.” And this is exactly how our current racial caste work to lock black people into an inferior position by law. Furthermore, white elites make the law to eliminate black people’s voting opportunities and even deny their voting rights in many ways, such as felon disenfranchisement laws, banning criminals’ voting rights for a long time period. The failure of our legal system to eradicate all of the tactics adopted during the Jim Crow era to suppress the black vote has major implications today. Therefore, it perpetuates the racial caste system. More claims and evidences given by Alexander, she states that the exclusion of black people from juries resulted in an enforcement of mass incarceration, and there are “30 percent” of black men who are automatically excluded from jury. Overall, mass incarceration perpetuates racial caste system after civil rights movement and it is a disguised “Jim Crow” that serves to suppress black people and lock them into a more disadvantaged position by law and custom.


  1. Your writing is very clear and straightforward - I appreciate your insights! - Miss Kosyla

  2. This was an interesting read. Earlier this year myself and a few other people went to see a few court cases and we could definitely see the failings of the legal system while we were there. There was a lawyer who did not bother showing up to court when her client, a black man from the inner city who could not afford a better lawyer, was potentially facing jail time. Luckily the judge was fair enough to delay the hearing and blamed the lawyer for her behavior rather than punishing the defendant. What do you think we can do as a country to decrease the unequal treatment of different races and socioeconomic groups in the legal system?