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Green, City Limits. Mangino, Sturgis Journal. Mahoney, The Miami Herald. Wesley Boyd, Salon. And they died younger than past years. Garrett, Time. Their caregivers? Other inmates. Can it be fixed? August 3, Bonnie Kristian, Rare. So Should Attica. Sam, Open Society Foundation Voices. Gates, The Clarion-Ledger.

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Time to change? Simpson is up for parole. How good are his chances of getting out of prison? Gates, The Clarion Ledger. Hartman, The Marshall Project. Can Anyone Fix It? State, S.

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Clamarella, Reason. Slobodzian, The Inquirer.

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Borges, Orlando Sentinel. Krajicek, thecrimereport. Moss, The Detroit News. Wright, jurist. Reavis, Texas Observer. I wish I could claim to have dug these up. I cannot. We knew it. A centuries-long legacy of equating blacks with criminals and moral degenerates did the work for him. In , while campaigning for president, Nixon was taped rehearsing a campaign ad. As incarceration rates rose and prison terms became longer, the idea of rehabilitation was mostly abandoned in favor of incapacitation.

Mandatory minimums—sentences that set a minimum length of punishment for the convicted—were a bipartisan achievement of the s backed not just by conservatives such as Strom Thurmond but by liberals such as Ted Kennedy. Conservatives believed mandatory sentencing would prevent judges from exercising too much leniency; liberals believed it would prevent racism from infecting the bench.

Before reform, prisoners typically served 40 to 70 percent of their sentences. After reform, they served 87 to percent of their sentences. Moreover, despite what liberals had hoped for, bias was not eliminated, because discretion now lay with prosecutors, who could determine the length of a sentence by deciding what crimes to charge someone with. District attorneys with reelection to consider could demonstrate their zeal to protect the public with the number of criminals jailed and the length of their stay. Prosecutors were not alone in their quest to appear tough on crime. There was no real doubt as to who would be the target of this newfound toughness.

Senate seat in New York. He was respected as a scholar and renowned for his intellect. But his preoccupations had not changed. This might well have been true as a description of drug enforcement policies , but it was not true of actual drug abuse: Surveys have repeatedly shown that blacks and whites use drugs at remarkably comparable rates. Moynihan had by the late Reagan era evidently come to believe the worst distortions of his own report.

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Gone was any talk of root causes; in its place was something darker. In seeming to abandon scholarship for rhetoric, Moynihan had plenty of company among social scientists and political pundits. James Q. But the thrust of his rhetoric was martial. Even as The Atlantic published those words, violent crime had begun to plunge. But thought leaders were slow to catch up.

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In , William J. Bennett, John P. Walters, and John J. DiIulio Jr. For the next decade, incarceration rates shot up even further. The justification for resorting to incarceration was the same in as it was in Many African Americans concurred that crime was a problem. » Steven T. Smith

The argument that high crime is the predictable result of a series of oppressive racist policies does not render the victims of those policies bulletproof. Likewise, noting that fear of crime is well grounded does not make that fear a solid foundation for public policy. In , the ACLU published a report noting a year uptick in marijuana arrests.

And yet by the close of the 20th century, prison was a more common experience for young black men than college graduation or military service. This conclusion was reached not warily, but lustily. As a presidential candidate, Bill Clinton flew home to Arkansas to preside over the execution of Ricky Ray Rector, a mentally disabled, partially lobotomized black man who had murdered two people in Joe Biden, then the junior senator from Delaware, quickly became the point man for showing that Democrats would not go soft on criminals.

The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration

The liberal wing of the Democratic Party is for , new state prison cells. In Texas, the Democratic governor, Ann Richards, had come to power in advocating rehabilitation, but she ended up following the national trend, curtailing the latitude of judges and the parole board in favor of fixed sentencing, which gave power to prosecutors. In New York, another liberal governor, Mario Cuomo, found himself facing an exploding prison population.

After voters rejected funding for more prisons, Cuomo pulled the money from the Urban Development Corporation, an agency that was supposed to build public housing for the poor. It did—in prison. Under the avowedly liberal Cuomo, New York added more prison beds than under all his predecessors combined.

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This was penal welfarism at its finest. Prison presented a solution: jobs for whites, and warehousing for blacks. Dark predictions of rising crime did not bear out. Like the bestial blacks of the 19th century, super-predators proved to be the stuff of myth. This realization cannot be regarded strictly as a matter of hindsight. In the end, she voted for it. Pepper also voted for it. In , President Clinton signed a new crime bill, which offered grants to states that built prisons and cut back on parole. Those were, and are, real problems. But even in trying to explain his policies, Clinton neglected to retract the assumption underlying them—that incarcerating large swaths of one population was a purely well-intended, logical, and nonracist response to crime.

Even at the time of its passage, Democrats—much like the Republican Nixon a quarter century earlier—knew that the crime bill was actually about something more than that. On the evening of December 19, , Odell Newton, who was then 16 years old, stepped into a cab in Baltimore with a friend, rode half a block, then shot and killed the driver, Edward Mintz. The State of Maryland charged Odell with crimes including murder in the first degree and sentenced him to life in prison.

He has now spent 41 years behind bars, but by all accounts he is a man reformed. He has repeatedly expressed remorse for his crimes. He has not committed an infraction in 36 years. The Maryland Parole Commission has recommended Odell for release three times since In the s, when Odell committed his crime, this was largely a formality. But in our era of penal cruelty, Maryland has effectively abolished parole for lifers—even juvenile offenders such as Odell. In , the U. Supreme Court ruled that life sentences without the possibility of parole for juveniles found guilty of crimes other than homicide were unconstitutional.

Two years later, it held the same for mandatory life sentences without parole for juvenile homicide offenders. But the Court has yet to rule on whether that more recent decision was retroactive. The vast majority of them—84 percent—are black. Clara had just driven seven hours round-trip to visit Odell at Eastern Correctional Institution, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and she was full of worry.

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He was being treated for hepatitis.