poor blacks and the police state, a sociologist’s first-hand experience

Prominent sociologist (Alice Goffman) spent time documenting police tactics and targeting of poor black neighborhoods. A petite white woman, she lived among the subjects of her study and has herself been interrogated by police and threatened with incarceration. She describes impact of policing and racial targeting. A few choice quotes below.

The number of people in American jails and prisons has risen fivefold over the past 40 years. There are now roughly six million people under criminal-justice supervision. “In modern history,” Goffman writes, “only the forced labor camps of the former U.S.S.R. under Stalin approached these levels of penal confinement.”…

The threat of incarceration has created “a new social fabric,” Goffman writes, “one woven in suspicion, distrust, and the paranoiac practices of secrecy, evasion, and unpredictability.” It has turned ghettos into “communities of suspects and fugitives.”…

More black men are ensnared in the criminal-justice system today than were enslaved before the Civil War. Goffman and others view the situation as a setback to the advances that African-Americans made in the civil-rights movement. One recent book calls mass incarceration “The New Jim Crow.”…

On her first day at Princeton, she writes, she cased the sociology department’s classrooms, identifying TVs and computers she could steal in the event that she needed some quick cash. She feared white men, the younger male professors especially. Even though she knew they weren’t cops, her chest pounded when they came close.

Intriguing throughout, and worth reading.

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