Magazine April 22, 2019, Issue

Michelle Alexander Is Wrong about Mass Incarceration

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The criminal-justice system is not racist, and confining people is necessary

Michelle Alexander, famous for her book arguing that mass incarceration is the “new Jim Crow,” now has a perch on the op-ed pages of the New York Times, where she’s been offering her views on the criminal-justice system. Those views have shifted quite a bit — she now at least recognizes that violent crime is a major driver of incarceration — but her policy proposals are just as ill informed as they were when her book caught the zeitgeist in 2010.

The New Jim Crow indicted the criminal-justice system for imposing racially motivated social controls on African Americans through convictions for

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This article appears as “Punishment’s Prosecutor” in the April 22, 2019, print edition of National Review.

Barry Latzer is an emeritus professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY. His most recent book is The Rise and Fall of Violent Crime in America. His history of violent crime pre-1940, The Roots of Violent Crime in America: From the Gilded Age through the Great Depression, will be published in 2021.

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