Law professor Michelle Alexander is the author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, a book about the invidious effects of our decades-old war on drugs and our exploding (and disproportionately black) prison population. The paperback has been on The New York Times nonfiction* bestseller list for many weeks. In March they wrote,
“The New Jim Crow” arrives at a receptive moment, when declining crime rates and exploding prison budgets have made conservatives and liberals alike more ready to question the wisdom of keeping nearly 1 in 100 Americans behind bars. But Professor Alexander, who teaches at the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University, said in an interview that the more provocative claims of her book did not come easily to her. When she first encountered the “New Jim Crow” metaphor on a protest sign in Oakland, Calif., a decade ago, she was a civil rights lawyer with an impeccable résumé — Stanford Law School, a Supreme Court clerkship — and was leery of embracing arguments that might be considered, as she put it, “crazy.”
And the discussion on ending the war on drugs will sound less and less crazy the more we talk about it. (I am a speaker for LEAP — Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.) If you can’t get behind this as a social justice issue then at least consider what a colossal waste of your tax dollars the prosecution and incarceration of non-violent drug offenders has become. The prison industry has lobbyists in Washington making sure everything stays nice and illegal. Make sure your representatives know that a more enlightened approach to drug abuse is needed. (Watch Michelle Alexander’s recent interview on The Colbert Report.)
Perfect Mother’s Day gift!
*The integrity of this nonfiction list is somewhat compromised by the inclusion at number one of Heaven is for Real: A Boy’s Encounter with Jesus and the Angels.