While comparisons between the U.S. prison system and American slavery have long been made, the relationship is even more stark when you examine the numbers.
According to U.S. Bureau of Justice estimates, as of 2008 more than 846,000 black men were in U.S. prisons, constituting 40.2 percent of all inmates in the system.
Michelle Alexander, a law professor at the Ohio State University, new book–“The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness”– puts these numbers in perspective claiming, detailing that more African American men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began.”
Alexander’s book argues that prisons have become the latest form of economic and social disenfranchisement for young folks of color, particularly black men. In it, she grapples with a central question: If crime rates have fluctuated over the years and are now at historical lows, then why have rates of incarcerated men of color skyrocketed over the past 30 years?