Criminal Justice (Online Writing)

Using readings and specifics from class, respond to the following question: Is “Mass incarceration is a new caste system thinly veiled by the cloak of colorblindness” (Alexander 211)

Last day to participate April 10


25 thoughts on “Criminal Justice (Online Writing)

  1. I primarily disagree but it could be true to a point. Though we have talked continuously about the unfair habits of police enforcement and stereotyping of whom the police go after to arrest, the thing to keep in mind is that though the methods may often time be based on stereotypes, people being arrested are still breaking the law. Is it unfair is 2/10 kids cheating in a classroom get caught? What if the two caught were students stereotyped to cheat by the teacher just because of how they dressed (or any factor)? The others weren’t caught but the 2 which were still cheated, so why is it wrong to bust them? Racism exists and is present but regardless, if (just as an example we use in class a lot) your black and its a fact that police will unfairly search and try everything to arrest you for drugs. DON’T CARRY DRUGS, all the more reason. All races do it and all races get caught, if your race is more likely to be searched, then don’t break the law. Incarceration is not a new caste system because everyone has the choice to or to not carry drugs/break the law. Even if you are unfairly searched throughout your life, you’ll never get caught if your actually not doing anything wrong. That scenario is terrible and completely unfair but non the less is apparently true. If the problem talked about is false convictions with lets say, false reports of carrying drugs, then yes its a caste system because there is no choice, your in it no matter what. If talking about pure racism then perhaps, because you have no choice. But mass incarcerations where you have the choice to break the law or not, that is not a caste system because there is the free choice to break the law regardless how likely or unlikely you are to get caught. After being caught, and have it on your record, perhaps a system of caste being compared to other crimes. But not for everyone.

    • Couple quick thoughts: (1) if one is caught for cheating, stopped, arrested based on stereotype (based on assumptions rather than simply behavior) can that ever be justice; (2) does the above lead to MORE lawbreaking/rules violating since 8 out of 10 will not be held accountable; (3) How does the idea of “equal justice” under the law fit here? (4) What impact does this have on those not breaking the law. Using your above example, what about the other students in the classroom who fit the profile yet who aren’t cheating — what sort of burdens do they have; in other words, if we think stop and frisk, given how few stops yield in drugs or weapons what impact does it have on the 95-99% of those who are stopped having done nothing wrong; (5) Whether everyone has the choice or not, people are serving life sentences (and the vast majority of those serving life sentences are people of color) in terms of the stigma, in terms of punishment; (6) the issues here are not just about arrest, but prosecution, conviction, sentence, parole, etc. How does that play when people who commit the same crime are being punished in different ways. Using your cheating example, what does it mean that some cheaters will be kicked out of school and others given a warning because of differences not in action but in who they are

  2. I do not know if the mass incarceration rate that started after the announcement of the War on Drugs in 1982 can be called a new cast system because when I see the word caste system I think of India’s caste system and who is at the bottom, the outcasts and untouchables. Here in the United States there is nothing like that, only upper, middle and lower classes, right? However, after more reading and thinking on the subject I started to see how people who have been incarcerated are in some ways deemed outcasts from society by our institutions and laws making it very hard for them to integrate back into society. In class we have talked about how after people are released from prison they no longer have the right to vote, excluded from most employment, restricted from public housing and benefits. No matter their race most who have been incarcerated are excluded from society. However, the situation looks even worse when race becomes an issue because even though we live in the era of “colorblindness”, the criminal justice system has been set up to where it is legal to discriminate against people of color. When police are told to pull over only black drivers, stop and frisk based on race and legislative profiling, it’s no wonder that in 2008, 1 in 9 black men ages 18-39 were in prison while only 1 in 55 white men were in prison. It is bad to break the law, but when the criminal justice system is set up in a way to catch people of color over whites more people of color are excluded from society because when you’re labeled a felon, discrimination gets put back in place. I know that it is wrong to break the law and no matter what race the felon is they should be sent to prison and based on the severity of the crime have restrictions placed on them once they are out, but to discriminate so strongly against people who have been incarcerated that they feel become outcasts from society is not justice. The racial caste system that was formed in the United States pre Civil War was redesigned in Jim Crow America, and now it seems like the racial caste system is being redesigned again with the mass incarceration rates in America.

  3. “Mass incarceration is a new caste system thinly veiled by the cloak of colorblindness” (Alexander 211). This could be considered a bold statement in commonplace society, but an individual with knowledge on the topic would completely agree. The truth is in numbers, and numbers show that whites are more likely to use and sell drugs. Whites also make up a large percentage of society in the United States. However, whites are the least likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, and jailed than African Americans. African Americans are so much more likely to go to jail that they currently make up more than 80% of the entire prison population with a drug charge. Drug charges in the United States are highly looked down upon, and most would agree that to label a drug dealer or user a “criminal” is appropriate.
    With this common agreement of drugs constituting a criminal, you would expect outrage from the public that so many white “criminals” are not jailed for their crime. If white people have a higher likelihood of possession than African Americans, you would expect them to be stopped with more frequency, and this is not the case. I would expect outrage based on the fact that white drug criminals are not getting locked up, but this is not the case. Statements such as, “why should I feel bad that black criminals are stopped more often, I mean, the ones who get caught still deserve to be in jail because they are criminals” are so frustrating. This common belief that the solution is to feel bad for a criminal couldn’t be any more wrong. The injustices surrounding who is assumed a criminal is one of the problems. On a side note, if you feel like you should feel bad, maybe it is because you should feel bad because there is obvious injustice and business surrounding our prison systems.

  4. I wouldn’t say that the mass incarceration of black Americans has created a new caste system. I think it safe to say that the caste was already present in American culture; it is just being manifested in a new form through the mass incarceration of a couple generations of black Americans. The mass incarceration has affected minorities at a highly disproportionate rate, exemplifying the mentality we have in America of the “criminalblackman.” This has taken a previously existing class of people (convicts) and extending the size of the group. The substantial number of arrests and convictions due to the war on drugs lead to the explosion of incarcerations we have today, but I don’t believe that it really created a new caste in American society.

    In our society, we have seen the oppression of black Americans for a very long time, they have always fallen within a societal group that has been viewed as being ‘less than’ other groups. What we have done with the mass incarceration is taken these already less desired groups of people and criminalized their groups for simply being a member of the groups. We have created a way in which we can stop a young black man and generate some kind criminal act they are to have performed so we may continue to send more of the ‘undesirables’ away to prison. They may or may not have committed to alleged crime, however that doesn’t matter. Society has become so accustomed to the idea that if you are black you are probable doing something that you shouldn’t be doing. As such, profiling has led to more police presence in black predominate neighborhoods (undesirable neighborhoods). Which in turn has lead to more black American’s coming into contact with law enforcement, and subsequently being arrested for crimes that are quite common in white neighborhoods as well. However due to there being a much smaller police presence in white neighborhoods, white Americans do not come into contact with law enforcement at the same rate as black Americans.

    Considering the large number of convicts (blacks) released from prison, without the opportunity to receive social benefits, and the stigma of having been in prison we are continuing to perpetuate the caste that blacks have occupied for decades. The way I see it, society doesn’t care so much that these men were convicted of drug crimes and sent to prison. Society sees them as ‘criminalblackmen’ and will continue to see them as such until society itself changes. I don’t think it is a matter of colorblindness we have, but plain and simple institutional racism. To me it clearly isn’t a ‘thinly veiled’ bias, but quite blatant. Society likes to think that we are all equal, however, I know for a fact (having been a federal agent) that this is not so. I have been through several training courses where the ‘suspects’ were all clearly portrayed as black men, and the course material described them as such. It seems to fall in line with the ‘pipeline’ system of profiling. This is still happening today, don’t even think for a second that it isn’t.


  5. First off I already believe race alone already divides society and has done so forever. It dates back in history and sadly it is something that we can’t escape. However, yes I do believe this is a new way of doing so in a sort. Numbers don’t lie and when it comes to the justice system the numbers when it comes to the race of those incarcerated is beyond ridiculous. To list a few: 80-90 percent of drug offenders in prison are African American. In 2009 of those 46,500 in New York arrested for possession of marijuana 87 percent were black and latino. Those convicted in 1994 of crack possession 84.5 percent were black, 10.3 percent white, and 5.2 percent latino. Now with that being said what stands out the most is how white students use cocaine at 7 times the rate of black students, crack cocaine at 8 times the rate and heroin at 7 times the rate. Also, are more likely to be drug dealers. Now of course people can make the argument that “well they were doing something illegal.” Yes that is true, but I feel to make that argument someone is either oblivious to the fact that racial profiling does exist or that they refuse to accept the truth. By the numbers it clearly shows what groups are targeted.

  6. If you ask me, I believe that mass incarceration itself is not a new caste system, but the laws surrounding crime create an inherent caste system within our society. To say that because you made a mistake in your life your opinion on who should be elected to office or your ability to live no longer matters to people is basically telling someone that they are below society. In my opinion this is almost the exact definition of a caste system. What is worse is that it is not just felons that we are saying are below society. Due to discrimination in society and by the government, African Americans are jailed disproportionately to the statistics of who commits the crimes. What this results in is a caste system that is composed of primarily African Americans on the bottom, when looking at statistics of who commits crimes; whites should be the majority of the lower portion of the caste system. For example if we only jailed people for crack/cocaine use whites should be 2/3 of the lower portion of this caste system we have created. However, due to discrimination, African Americans are 80-90% of those jailed and hence 80-90% of the people in the lower portion of the caste system. From these statistics, not only does jail create a caste system, but a racist one at that.

  7. I agree with the first section of this statement that “mass incarceration is a new caste system.” I exclude the last part “thinly veiled by color blindness because I am not quite sure what is mean here and adds an extra variable that would only cause confusion when explaining how incarceration can lead to a caste system. A caste system is “a division of society based on differences of wealth, inherited rank or privilege, profession, occupation, or race.” We know that minorities, specifically blacks/African-American’s are more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested and sentenced to prison time for drug possession. Drug possession affects the employment abilities, housing options, and parental rights of those on parole and those once they have done their time. Drug possession charges on someone’s record has a huge impact on how someone can live their life. It has such a huge impact that it makes being successful or even just living difficult. Those charged with possession are disproportionately black and we can see how mass incarceration is separating black drug users and white drug users or whites and blacks in general. Every time a black is arrested for drug possession the system is limiting what one more black person can do. Does this contribute to the disproportionate amount of blacks that live below the poverty line? I’m not sure how much but I’m sure it does. The more I write and analyze this the more I see how mass incarceration from the war on drugs has affected the black population as a whole. Now yes those using/selling drugs should be arrested, but arresting someone for drug possession should not be a way to stifle a group of people from freedoms others enjoy.

  8. There are a lot of African-Americans in the criminal justice system either in jail or on parole. Many more people of color than whites are made felons by the entire system of mass incarceration. I believe that a lot of this started after President Ronald Regan declared war on drugs. The criminal justice system has been set up to where it is legal to discriminate against people of color. Like for example, you are given more time for distribution of crack, which is considered the black drug. Than powder cocaine which is considered a white drug. It’s been proven that it is more likely for African-Americans to go to jail actually they make up more than half of the prison population. Once they are incarcerated a few of their rights are taken away. So things like you can’t vote, it also takes away your government funding which is really needed for the less fortunate people who can’t afford many things. These things kind of devalue the citizens or their citizenship. This makes it easier to make them vulnerable to the stop and frisk law. With the whole stop and frisk law promotes racial profiling. They target more minorities than anything just because of certain stereotypes that they hear or believe. Things like this makes society get the stereotype of minority people as the criminals.

  9. Let me start out by saying yes mass incarceration is predominantly black males, but I do not believe the initial intent was to create the caste system in place, however, I do believe that the prison system is self perpetuating and not serving a purpose other than creating a special class where the citizens have no rights under law. I am not sure what Reagan, Nixon, and Clintons’ intents were with the war on drugs originally, but I do know that it essentially does not exist and has no legitimate purpose. The incarceration system is a business, meaning that their main prerogative is to make money through the sheer amount of people they process. Unfortunately, the “low hanging fruit” in our country are the black males living in dense, city populations and they are targeted in order to keep the prison system going. The “caste system” created a class of U.S citizens who, once identifies as a felon, can’t work, can’t live in public housing, can’t vote, and more than likely don’t have access to their own children. This system of incarceration then leaks into the younger generations from parental and geographical influence, thus the self perpetuating system. The system may not have started out with blatant colorblind racism, but it has definitely turned into a system where minority groups are targeted as the ‘criminals’ for life. 95% of people who were asked to picture a drug dealer said they pictured a black male; a prime example of the racism perpetuated by the prison system and the War on Drugs. People may deny it all they want, but the fact is that the blacks are feared because of the population of blacks in prison, on parole, or on probation.

  10. The prison system is an effective means of making sure that the ‘bad guys’ stay away from the ‘good guys’. However, it is also a strong way of influencing the general populations on who the ‘bad guys’ are. Chances are, people react differently when they hear “I’ve possessed marijuana” and “I’ve been to prison because I possessed marijuana”. But does that actually change what the individual did? Going to prison means you were put in jail for committing a crime, and good on us because we made sure justice was served. However, going to jail for a crime means you have to be caught and being caught means you were on someone’s radar. An argument could be made that every ‘bad guy’ we put away that committed a crime deserved it. However, a (very strong) argument could also be made that inequalities in the prison system create. A caste system, being a system that means that you live in the caste you’re assigned, has been created in repeat incarceration and higher incarceration rates in certain neighborhoods (largely of more of color, than whites) and it pretends to be color blind under “justice”. 200 people commit a crime, 100 of them are white, and 100 of them are black. Whites live in an area where police rarely find trouble, and blacks live in the area most citizens call “ghetto”, so police find it useful to keep an eye on the area. All 100 black civilians get caught for their crimes and only a small percentage of whites do. Is this equal? Inequalities in the prison system poorly represent how race operates when it comes to crime. We’d be led to believe that minorities commit crimes the most, which isn’t the case. In addition to imprisonment, individuals face a distinct lack of resources that may force them to be reintroduced to the justice system. This caste system while it seems ‘colorblind’ because they’re imprisoning criminals, not races is in practice flawed and fails to serve equally and thus creates a caste in which an overwhelming influence of imprisonment creates a self-perpetuating cycle.

    • How is it effective given statistics today regarding sexual violence (3/100 of rapes result in incarceration); how is it effective in terms of who the war on drugs is waged against?

  11. Before taking this course I would probably disagree with this statement but since enrolling I have had my eyes opened to many things that cause this mass incarceration to happen. Most of it being from small parole violations and people pretty much being set up for failure in their communities. I think of these people as the groups in public housing and low income areas, which I believe most of the arrests for petty things are occur. This stems from laws and actions such as the War on Drugs, Anti Drug Abuse Act, police getting paid overtime to process offenders and finally the Violent Crime Control And Law Enforcement act. These laws make it easier to stop and frisk and maybe, just maybe find drugs or contraband on people. All of this happens while they mostly ignore the suburban areas where most of the drug actions occur. This is why I believe the mass arrests have created caste systems such as in India. It almost breaks down as the economic class system does. The lowest of the low are the ones spending the most time in jail, just as those in India are forced to beg for food and not work. You then may jump to the middle class where there are mostly hardworking people, but still a fraction of people are being arrested and sentenced to jail. Finally there are the white collar people, who could mostly be related to the highest classes, near nirvana. These people are the least likely to be arrested and sent to jail on petty charges because they have the money to get out of crimes by paying the best lawyers and also I believe they are the least monitored. I think I have seen this in my life a fair amount, I live in a pretty average middle class area in Portland, OR and I can only think of a handful of times in the 18 years I lived there I even saw police in my neighborhood. Where I attended highschool was a different story, I went to a catholic school on the other side of town right on the boarder of where the town turns more “ghetto” and a day wouldn’t go by where we didn’t hear sirens from the classroom or make a drive without seeing police roving around neighborhoods looking to pull someone over.

  12. I do not think that mass incarceration is the lowest class or caste in the world. The lowest class would be something like the lepers. They would be outcast and free from any help or contact with anyone. On the contrary, every occupant of the prison is provided a roof over their head, three square meals a day, and free health care. It is one of the lowest classes, but not the lowest in the world. In some cases, I do agree that incarceration is a new caste or class. When forced to socialize with a certain group, you will begin to learn their habits and assimilate. Especially in a prison setting, you do not want to stick out in any way. After a long period of time, you will become totally assimilated into this culture, and it will become a part of you. This is much like spending time with any other class, you will begin to assimilate. I agree that it may be “thinly veiled by the cloak of colorblindness”. The prison systems are filled with a great majority of blacks and latinos. This course has definitely widened my vision of the obvious racism that i was oblivious to before.

  13. I believe that this statement could go ether way. Yes mass incarceration seems to be covered up by colorblindness because it is something that dose not get shown openly. Facts show that a majority of people that are being arrested are those of a race other than white. However, the problem with this statement is if these people are criminals, which means they’re going to jail for illegal activity, then why are we looking at what race they are. Although this may be racists, and unfair to a certain extent, in the end these people are still going to jail for breaking the law. This shows that the main inequality is coming from the government/police. The rasism that still occurs in our world is mainly coming from inequality that is not openly shown. If people want to completely get rid of racism, these types of inequalities are things that need to be put into play.

    • The vast majority of people go to prison are nonviolent drug offenders; the vast majority of drug offenders in society don’t go to prison. How does addiction impact your discussion? what about the number of people who are incarcerated for technical violations of parole (what law did they break?). But in the end the majority of lawbreakers dont go to prison so what does this reveal?

  14. I think that you could definitely argue that mass incarceration has created a new caste system in our society. That being said, there are a lot of arguments you could make against that statement. There are many indications that the criminal justice system is biased against black males. Specifically young (between the ages of 20-30), low income black males. In class, we talked about how one in three young black males had gotten in some sort of trouble with the law. If you take into account the amount of technical and parole violations that keep these people going back to prison and continuing to get in trouble even though they are not committing serious crimes, it can definitely seem like a system where low income blacks are at a disadvantage and once they enter into the prison system, it is hard to get out of. Even if they do get out, there opportunities outside in the free world are diminished because it is hard to find work if you have a criminal background. I do believe the class of young black people who get caught up in crime have created almost sort of a caste of their own. However, based on your definition of what a caste is, opinions could differ on the subject. One other part of the statement was that this is a “new” caste system. I’m not sure I agree that it is actually all that new. It is maybe a new manifestation of the black criminal caste, but not completely a new idea. I think in modern times you can’t get away with outright racism like you could, say in the 1930s with Jim Crow and the like. Now, I think you see a new manifestation of the black criminal idea in the form of the war on drugs and mass incarceration.

  15. I would consider mass incarceration a new caste system. Society as a whole divides each individual by the color of their skin. Then pin points the race with the highest percentage while officials go after them because they believe they’re the leading group. It’s like they calculate these numbers to make sure they have someone to blame. Honestly, what does it matter which gender/race gets caught for possession of crack? If a white person wants to do crack, they’ll do it no matter how many white people are incarcerated in prison for it. My personal opinion, numbers shouldn’t even matter. I once heard a statistics that 50% of statistics aren’t true. I think that percentages of the different racial groups that are incarcerated shouldn’t matter and shouldn’t be recorded. It demeans each race that receives the highest percentage which turns into a stereotype, a threat to the community. It gets twisted and makes someone look bad when every type of culture/race does the same thing but just doesn’t get caught. Colorblindness is just another ideology of racism that is still around and we use to point the finger at and grab attention through the media and make things seem like they’re justified.

  16. Along with many other people in this thread I think you could argue that the caste isn’t particularly new but it is definitely present. In society and society in the past prisoners have always been “outcasts” in the view of society never given the same opportunities as those who have not been incarcerated. I think that blacks are definitely at a disadvantage for drug related crimes when caught by frisking or when a cop can clearly see and profile them as somebody who may be carrying drugs. However what about when it is dark out and a cop pulls a person over because they were swerving in their car and possibly drunk? Most drinking and driving occurs at night and the arrest rate for blacks in drinking and driving is 2x that for whites. However this statistic can also be proof of racial profiling for said above drug cases because blacks are arrested at way higher than 2x the of whites for drug related crimes. Personally I think racial profiling is a huge problem and factor why so many black males end up in prison not to mention technical violations for parole landing them back in prison. Although racial profiling is a problem the person convicted of the crime deserves the punishment and would most likely be carried out whether white, black, or any other race it is just blacks which gets the most racial profiling and caught the most.

  17. In my opinion, mass incarceration is not specifically associated with new caste systems. I believe that such events have always happened throughout history and the difference between those of the past and the mass incarceration we see today is the influence and power that have been provided to legal movements that support mass incarceration. There are things like stop and frisk and the safe streets act that allow police officers to perform more field test in which they can put people in custody easily. Having these legal actions set in place only gives those who are responsable for the incarceration of many people. The reason I say that mass incarceration is not a part of new caste systems is because things like this have beaning happing throughout history all over the world. It is no secret that people are being social victimized and persecuted for chargers of any caliber. One example of this in America is the penalties of drug users, specifically with cocaine use. The bulk of cocaine users are white, while the bulk of people convicted of cocaine related issues are black. This shows that in most cases the police and government are putting into place policies that focus on certain types of people, often based on race. As I said earlier, mass incarceration is not a new phenomenon, rather it has become more empowered and effective with the support of government policies that influence law enforcers to racial profile and narrow their focus in order to insure that certain racial groups are incarcerated in massive numbers.

  18. Honestly, when I first saw this sentence, I really do not know how to respond this question. I am not sure that if my thoughts are right, so at here, I just want to say some of my own ideas about this question. Firstly, I knew a caste system is a type of social structure. It divides people into some similar groups and people should or expected to get together in these similar classes. Colorblindness means that people do not see the racial problems in the society, so it should also the same situation in the range of criminal justice. In the past time, blacks (African American) have a high crime rate; the governmental agencies like policemen will think about the racial problems. Although the issue of racial discrimination still exists nowadays, it becomes much better than the past time. Policemen will try their best to keep fair among people in criminal justice.

    In my opinion, mass incarceration is just a method to deal with the crime incidents. Maybe this method can keep the criminal justice due to the “colorblindness”; however, it is not a new caste system in the society. At present, blacks are still having a higher crime rate than other skin color people.


  19. If you were to ask me I believe that mass incarceration is a new caste system. The laws surrounding crime made an inherent caste system in America. To make the excuse that you made a mistake in your life you choose people who should be elected to office or your ability to live longer doesn’t mater to people this is telling someone you are below average in the eyes of society. In my view this is the definition off caste system. What is the bad worse is that more than just felons. What this results in is a caste that is composed of primarily black on the bottom, when I saw the statistics of who commits crimes; whites should be the majority of the lower portion of caste system. An example if we only put into jail whites people for cocaine should be two third of this system we have created

  20. I don not think that “Mass incarceration is a new caste system thinly veiled by the cloak of colorblindness” is right. First , there are a lot of reaons cause mass incarceration, not because the prisons are normal people or what. Second, if people say that is a system, that should be admitted by society. In this case, many people have different opinion about mass incraceration, so that should not be a “system”. I think American have many different thoughts between white and black, specially after drug war. Even police and goverment have different attitude some times. However, maybe we should not see every think to racism or some else, because racism is not for every one anyway.

  21. I think that “mass incarceration is a new caste system thinly veiled by the cloak of colorblindness” because if you look at the population within the prisons there are a lot more minorities specifically African Americans than there are white people, which doesn’t really make sense considering the population in the united States is predominately white. So why are there more African Americans in prison than white people? This is because of the corrupt colorblind racism of the criminal justice system. The police force either consciously or unconsciously racially profile people all of the time. There have even been laws passed so that police officers can stop and search vehicles for various reasons mainly drugs.

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