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Jim Crow in Prison

For thirty years the rate of incarceration in the United States has risen inversely to the rate of crime, a fact that has been hardest on black, working-class citizens. In addition to the discussion of the causes of the rising crime rate outlined by Glenn Loury, I wonder whether fear is not also being distilled and therefore contributing to the problem. In other words, as white middle-class Americans have become less likely to be victims of crime—violent or otherwise, crime has increasingly come to reside in the popular imagination. Consequently, fear of crime and paranoia has increased. On that note, I think it could be a fascinating media analysis project to investigate whether ticking time-bomb and other “what would you do?” gotcha scenarios have likewise increased in inverse proportion to crime crates.

 

Comments

I was reading something about this in an excerpt from Commentary that was reprinted in Prospect which I was leafing through in a Borders while waiting for B.

The author was citing the high incarceration/low crime rate approvingly as a sign that the American social fabric was not rending itself asunder after all, contrary to Bill Bennett’s early 90s predictions of doom. As though once someone’s put in prison they cease to be part of the social fabric. As though most of these prisoners won’t one day rejoin us.