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Key Books on Injustice
From Slave Ship to Supermax by In his cogent and groundbreaking book, From Slave Ship to Supermax, Patrick Elliot Alexander argues that the disciplinary logic and violence of slavery haunt depictions of the contemporary U.S. prison in late twentieth-century Black fiction. Alexander links representations of prison life in James Baldwin's novel If Beale Street Could Talk to his engagements with imprisoned intellectuals like George Jackson, who exposed historical continuities between slavery and mass incarceration. Likewise, Alexander reveals how Toni Morrison's Beloved was informed by Angela Y. Davis's jail writings on slavery-reminiscent practices in contemporary women's facilities. Alexander also examines recurring associations between slave ships and prisons in Charles Johnson's Middle Passage, and connects slavery's logic of racialized premature death to scenes of death row imprisonment in Ernest Gaines' A Lesson Before Dying. Alexander ultimately makes the case that contemporary Black novelists depict racial terror as a centuries-spanning social control practice that structured carceral life on slave ships and slave plantations--and that mass-produces prisoners and prisoner abuse in post-Civil Rights America. These authors expand free society's view of torment confronted and combated in the prison industrial complex, where discriminatory laws and the institutionalization of secrecy have reinstated slavery's system of dehumanization.
Publication Date: 2017-11-30
City of Inmates by Los Angeles incarcerates more people than any other city in the United States, which imprisons more people than any other nation on Earth. This book explains how the City of Angels became the capital city of the world's leading incarcerator. Marshaling more than two centuries of evidence, historian Kelly Lytle Hernandez unmasks how histories of native elimination, immigrant exclusion, and black disappearance drove the rise of incarceration in Los Angeles. In this telling, which spans from the Spanish colonial era to the outbreak of the 1965 Watts Rebellion, Hernandez documents the persistent historical bond between the racial fantasies of conquest, namely its settler colonial form, and the eliminatory capacities of incarceration. But City of Inmates is also a chronicle of resilience and rebellion, documenting how targeted peoples and communities have always fought back. They busted out of jail, forced Supreme Court rulings, advanced revolution across bars and borders, and, as in the summer of 1965, set fire to the belly of the city. With these acts those who fought the rise of incarceration in Los Angeles altered the course of history in the city, the borderlands, and beyond. This book recounts how the dynamics of conquest met deep reservoirs of rebellion as Los Angeles became the City of Inmates, the nation's carceral core. It is a story that is far from over.
Publication Date: 2017-02-15
Prisoners of Politics by America's criminal justice policy reflects irrational fears stoked by politicians seeking to win election. A preeminent legal scholar argues that reform guided by evidence, not politics and emotions, will reduce crime and reverse mass incarceration. The United States has the world's highest rate of incarceration, a form of punishment that ruins lives and makes a return to prison more likely. As awful as that truth is for individuals and their families, its social consequences?recycling offenders through an overwhelmed criminal justice system, ever-mounting costs, unequal treatment before the law, and a growing class of permanently criminalized citizens?are even more devastating. With the authority of a prominent legal scholar and the practical insights gained through on-the-ground work on criminal justice reform, Rachel Barkow explains how dangerous it is to base criminal justice policy on the whims of the electorate, which puts judges, sheriffs, and politicians in office. Instead, she argues for an institutional shift toward data and expertise, following the model used to set food and workplace safety rules. Barkow's prescriptions are rooted in a thorough and refreshingly ideology-free cost?benefit analysis of how to cut mass incarceration while maintaining public safety. She points to specific policies that are deeply problematic on moral grounds and have failed to end the cycle of recidivism. Her concrete proposals draw on the best empirical information available to prevent crime and improve the reentry of former prisoners into society. Prisoners of Politics aims to free criminal justice policy from the political arena, where it has repeatedly fallen prey to irrational fears and personal interest, and demonstrates that a few simple changes could make us all safer.
Publication Date: 2019-03-04
The New Jim Crow by Once in a great while a book comes along that changes the way we see the world and helps to fuel a nationwide social movement. The New Jim Crow is such a book. Praised by Harvard Law professor Lani Guinier as "brave and bold," this book directly challenges the notion that the presidency of Barack Obama signals a new era of colorblindness. With dazzling candor, legal scholar Michelle Alexander argues that "we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it." By targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control--relegating millions to a permanent second-class status--even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness. In the words of Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, this book is a "call to action." Called "stunning" by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David Levering Lewis, "invaluable" by the Daily Kos, "explosive" by Kirkus, and "profoundly necessary" by the Miami Herald, The New Jim Crow is a must-read for all people of conscience.
Publication Date: 2010-01-05
HST 352: American InJustice
The Prison as a Social History of the US
About This Guide
This guide serves to assist HST 352 students in navigating various media in order to execute social justice research in order to support students in their various assignments and projects this semester. The guide contains a variety of podcasts, books, articles, and databases that encompass the many facets of injustice in the prison system, prison industrial complex and the Black Lives Matter movement. Additionally, it will take a critical look at the state of Indianapolis and the prison system within it.
What is Injustice?
According to Merriam-Webster, injustice is the "violation of right or of the rights of another." Today, injustice has taken on many different forms. For the purposes of this course and LibGuide, we will be looking at injustices committed in the context of the prison system. The United States has the highest incarceration rates on an international scale with over 2.2 million people in the nation's prisons and jails. This population is a 500% increase over the last 40 years. Mass incarceration has contributed largely to this and disproportionately affects certain populations. Today, people of color make up 37% of the US population but 67% of the prison population. Black men are six times more likely to be incarcerated than white men and Hispanic men are more than twice as like to be incarcerated as non-Hispanic white men.
The purpose of this LibGuide is to examine why this occurs and what actions can be taken to correct these, among other unfair and inequitable trends, in the prison system.
Leaders in Fighting Injustice
Agnes Gund: President Emerita of MOMA and Founder of Art for Justice
President emerita of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) and current chair of its International Council, Gund is known for her philanthropic efforts and dedication to social change. In 2017, she became the founder of Art for Justice which is an organization that gives grants to artists and advocates who intend to reduce the US prison population and encourage criminal justice reform. She also was a major sponsor of MOMA PS1's exhibition curated by Nicole R. Fleetwood, "Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration."
Deanna Van Buren, Design Director and Executive Director of Designing Justice + Designing Spaces
Deanna Van Buren is a renowned architect, best known for being an advocate for restorative justice centers. Her firm specializes in literally "building" an environment conducive to ending mass incarceration.
Michelle Alexander: Author, Activist, and Advocate
Michelle Alexander is a highly acclaimed civil rights lawyer, advocate, scholar, and author. She is best known for her book "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness." This book spent nearly 250 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list since 2010.
Michelle Jones: Indiana Native and Doctorate Student
Formerly in prison at Indiana Women's Prison in Indianapolis, Jones completed her 20-year sentence in 2017. Upon her release, she began her doctorate at New York University in the American Studies program. She is now an advocate and activist for families directed by mass incarceration, in addition to participating in a scholarly project collecting the stories of the history of women's prison with a group of incarcerated scholars.
Topeka K. Sam: Founder and Executive Director of Ladies of Hope Ministries
After being released from prison in 2015, Sam created The Ladies of Hope Ministries (The LOHM) to help disenfranchised and marginalized women transition back into society. She also helped to develop the vision for Hope House NYC which is a safe housing space for formerly incarcerated women. In 2020, she became one of eight people named to the first cohort of "Unlocked Futures," an accelerator for social innovators who have been personally impacted by the criminal justice system.