In The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander delivers some sobering facts to her readers regarding the American Constitution and legal system, as they relate to Black Americans.
"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." -- U.S. Constitution, Amendment XIV
To what extent do you believe the criminal justice system perpetuates slavery under this constitutional "exception"?
THE LAW MAKES IT EASY FOR THE POLICE TO SEIZE YOUR PROPERTY
State and federal forfeiture laws authorize the government to seize property believed to be obtained through illegal means - specifically narcotic sales. This practice has been challenged by defendants and upheld by the Supreme Court. In Bennis v. Michigan, Justice Stevens described the type of property that qualified for forfeiture and the circumstances under which forfeiture is constitutional:
Property directly resulting from, or that can be traced to, an illegal activity. Once a crime is identified, the government may seize any property flowing from the activity. In some cases, the government may seize property in lieu of provable criminal proceeds. Statutory innocent owner defenses provide a check on the seizure, [but the owner has the burden of proof for that defense], not the government.
To what extent do you feel this process deprives suspected criminals of their rights as citizens?
BLACK AMERICANS ARE DISPROPORTIONATELY TARGETED AND HARMED BY THE SO-CALLED "WAR ON DRUGS" AND THE LEGAL SYSTEM THAT FACILITATES IT.
Michelle Alexander's research proves that Black Americans are disproportionately targeted and harmed by the "war-on-drugs", but civil rights organizations and most Black politicians are hesitant to challenge this toxic policy approach that has led to mass incarceration.
Why do you think Black leaders have remained passive on this issue? How do you think we can mobilize Black leaders, and our community as a whole, on this issue?
Please feel free to share your thoughts, reactions, and opinions on the questions we have posed, and on any other topics that have sparked your interest while reading The New Jim Crow! This blog is all about facilitating group discussions and conversations around the books we read as a group! We look forward to reading your comments!