Race, Class and Prison

31 03 2010

Category: Criminal Law, Politics

Image from Texas Tough

The British Justice Minister was on the radio this morning proudly boasting about how long British prisoners are locked up for.

We sentence people for much longer in this country than in Europe and I am unapologetic about that   – Jack Straw

It’s a policy Britain imported from America.

Between 1965 and 2000, the US prison population went up 600%. The growth in Texas was double that. According to a new book by Robert Perkinson (Texas Tough; the Rise of a Prison Empire) it’s a victory for a penal policy that evolved from slavery.

After the defeat of the South in the Civil War, states began to use law enforcement as a way of retaining slavery by other means. Prisoners were hired out to work; cutting sugarcane, picking cotton, building railroads.

Whites were hired out too but generally for less backbreaking work. There was a Northern model too; based on rehabilitation. The South’s won out… Read the rest of this entry »








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