In Prison Reform, Money Trumps Civil Rights
By MICHELLE ALEXANDER
THE legal scholar Derrick A. Bell foresaw that mass incarceration, like earlier systems of racial control, would continue to exist as long as it served the perceived interests of white elites.
Thirty years of civil rights litigation and advocacy have failed to slow the pace of a racially biased drug war or to prevent the emergence of a penal system of astonishing size. Yet a few short years of tight state budgets have inspired former “get tough” true believers to suddenly denounce the costs of imprisonment. “We’re wasting tax dollars on prisons,” they say. “It’s time to shift course.”
Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, shocked many earlier this year when he co-wrote an essay for The Washington Post calling on “conservative legislators to lead the way in addressing an issue often considered off-limits to reform: prisons.”