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See Attachment

A heavy and cruel hand has been laid upon us. As a people, we feel our-

selves to be not only deeply injured, but grossly misunderstood. Our

white countrymen do not know us. They are strangers to our charac-

ter, ignorant of our capacity, oblivious to our history and progress, and

are misinformed as to the principles and ideas that control and guide

us, as a people. The great mass of American citizens estimates us as

being a characterless and purposeless people; and hence we hold up

our heads, if at all, against the withering influence of a nation’s scorn

and contempt.1

—Frederick Douglass, in a statement on behalf of delegates to the

National Colored Convention held in Rochester, New York, in July

1853

When Frederick Douglass and the other delegates to the National Colored Convention converged in Rochester, New York, in the
summer of 1853 to discuss the condition, status, and future of “coloreds”

(as they were called then), they decried the stigma of race—the condem-

nation and scorn heaped upon them for no reason other than the color

of their skin. Most of the delegates were freed slaves, though the young-

er ones may have been born free. Northern emancipation was complete,

4
T he C r ue l   H a n d

Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow : Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, The New Press, 2020.
ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/utarl/detail.action?docID=5651869.
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1 7 6 T H E N E W J I M   C R O W

but freedom remained elusive. Blacks were finally free from the formal

control of their owners, but they were not full citizens—they could not

vote, they were subject to legal discrimination, and at any moment,

Southern plantation owners could capture them on the street and whisk

them back to slavery. Although Northern slavery had been abolished,

every black person was still presumed a slave—by law—and could not

testify or introduce evidence in court. Thus if a Southern plantation

owner said you were a slave, you were—unless a white person inter-

ceded in a court of law on your behalf and testified that you were right-

fully free. Slavery may have died, but for thousands of blacks, the badge

of slavery lived on.

Today a criminal freed from prison has scarcely more rights,

and arguably less respect, than a freed slave or a black person liv-

ing “free” in Mississippi at the height of Jim Crow. Those released

from prison on parole can be stopped and searched by the police

for any reason—or no reason at all—and returned to prison for the

most minor of infractions, such as failing to attend a meeting with a

parole officer. Even when released from the system’s formal control,

the stigma of criminality lingers. Police supervision, monitoring, and

harassment are facts of life not only for all those labeled criminals,

but for all those who “look like” criminals. Lynch mobs may be long

gone, but the threat of police violence is ever present. A wrong move

or sudden gesture could mean massive retaliation by the police. A

wallet could be mistaken for a gun. The “whites only” signs may be

gone, but new signs have gone up—notices placed in job applica-

tions, rental agreements, loan applications, forms for welfare ben-

efits, school applications, and petitions for licenses, informing the

general public that “felons” are not wanted here. A criminal record

today authorizes precisely the forms of discrimination we supposed-

ly left behind—discrimination in employment, housing, education,

public benefits, and jury service. Those labeled criminals can even be

denied the right to vote.

Criminals, it turns out, are the one social group in America we

Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow : Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, The New Press, 2020.
ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/utarl/detail.action?docID=5651869.
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T H E C R U E L   H A N D 1 7 7

have permission to hate. In “colorblind” America, criminals are the

new whipping boys. They are entitled to no respect and little mor-

al concern. Like the “coloreds” in the years following emancipation,

criminals today are deemed a characterless and purposeless people,

deserving of our collective scorn and contempt. When we say someone

was “treated like a criminal,” what we mean to say is that he or she

was treated as less than human, like a shameful creature. Hundreds of

years ago, our nation put those considered less than human in shack-

les; less than one hundred years ago, we relegated them to the other

side of town; today we put them in cages. Once released, they find that

a heavy and cruel hand has been laid upon them.

Brave New World

One might imagine that a criminal defendant, when brought before the

judge—or when meeting with his attorney for the first time—would

be told of the consequences of a guilty plea or conviction. He would be

told that, if he pleads guilty to a felony, he will be deemed “unfit” for

jury service and automatically excluded from juries for the rest of his

life.2 He would also be told that he could be denied the right to vote.

In a country that preaches the virtues of democracy, one could rea-

sonably assume that being stripped of basic political rights would be

treated by judges and court personnel as a serious matter indeed. Not

so. When a defendant pleads guilty to a minor drug offense, nobody

will likely tell him that he may be permanently forfeiting his right to

vote as well as his right to serve on a jury—two of the most fundamen-

tal rights in any modern democracy.

He will also be told little or nothing about the parallel universe he

is about to enter, one that promises a form of punishment that is often

more difficult to bear than prison time: a lifetime of shame, contempt,

scorn, and exclusion. In this hidden world, discrimination is per-

fectly legal. As Jeremy Travis has observed, “In this brave new world,

punishment for the original offense is no longer enough; one’s debt to

Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow : Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, The New Press, 2020.
ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/utarl/detail.action?docID=5651869.
Created from utarl on 2021-11-11 20:18:37.

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1 7 8 T H E N E W J I M   C R O W

society is never paid.”3 Other commentators liken the prison label to

“the mark of Cain” and characterize the perpetual nature of the sanc-

tion as “internal exile.” 4 Myriad laws, rules, and regulations operate

to discriminate against people with criminal records and effectively

prevent their reintegration into the mainstream society and economy.

These restrictions amount to a form of “civic death” and send the

unequivocal message that “they” are no longer part of “us.”

Once labeled a felon, the badge of inferiority remains with you for

the rest of your life, relegating you to a permanent second-class status.

Consider, for example, the harsh reality facing someone who pleads

guilty to a first-time offense, felony possession of marijuana. Even if

the defendant manages to avoid prison time by accepting a “generous”

plea deal, he may discover that the punishment that awaits him outside

the courthouse doors is far more severe and debilitating than what he

might have encountered in prison. A task force of the American Bar

Association described the bleak reality facing someone convicted of a

petty drug offense this way:

[The] offender may be sentenced to a term of probation,

community service, and court costs. Unbeknownst to this

offender, and perhaps any other actor in the sentencing

process, as a result of his conviction he may be ineligible

for many federally-funded health and welfare benefits, food

stamps, public housing, and federal educational assistance.

His driver’s license may be automatically suspended, and

he may no longer qualify for certain employment and pro-

fessional licenses. If he is convicted of another crime he

may be subject to imprisonment as a repeat offender. He

will not be permitted to enlist in the military, or possess a

firearm, or obtain a federal security clearance. If a citizen,

he may lose the right to vote; if not, he becomes immedi-

ately deportable.5

Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow : Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, The New Press, 2020.
ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/utarl/detail.action?docID=5651869.
Created from utarl on 2021-11-11 20:18:37.

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T H E C R U E L   H A N D 1 7 9

Despite the brutal, debilitating impact of these “collateral conse-

quences” on the lives of those convicted of crimes, courts have gener-

ally declined to find that such sanctions are actually “punishment” for

constitutional purposes. As a result, judges are not required to inform

criminal defendants of some of the most important rights they are

forfeiting when they plead guilty to a felony. In fact, judges, prosecu-

tors, and defense attorneys may not even be aware of the full range of

collateral consequences for a felony conviction. Yet these civil penal-

ties, although not considered punishment by our courts, often make it

virtually impossible for people who have been convicted of crimes to

integrate into the mainstream society and economy upon release. Far

from collateral, these sanctions can be the most damaging and painful

aspect of a criminal conviction. Collectively, these sanctions send the

strong message that, now that you have been labeled, you are no longer

wanted. You are no longer part of “us,” the deserving. Unable to drive,

get a job, find housing, or even qualify for public benefits, many people

with criminal records lose their children, their dignity, and eventually

their freedom— landing back in jail after failing to play by rules that

seem hopelessly stacked against them.

The churning of African Americans in and out of prisons today is

hardly surprising, given the strong message that is sent to them that

they are not wanted in mainstream society. In Frederick Douglass’s

words, “Men are so constituted that they derive their conviction of

their own possibilities largely from the estimate formed of them by

others. If nothing is expected of a people, that people will find it dif-

ficult to contradict that expectation.” 6 More than a hundred years later,

a similar argument was made by a woman contemplating her eventual

release into a society that had constructed a brand-new legal regime

designed to keep her locked out, fifty years after the demise of Jim

Crow. “Right now I’m in prison,” she said. “Like society kicked me

out. They’re like, ‘Okay, the criminal element, we don’t want them in

society, we’re going to put them in prisons.’ Okay, but once I get out,

Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow : Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, The New Press, 2020.
ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/utarl/detail.action?docID=5651869.
Created from utarl on 2021-11-11 20:18:37.

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1 8 0 T H E N E W J I M   C R O W

then what do you do? What do you do with all these millions of people

that have been in prison and been released? I mean, do you accept

them back? Or do you keep them as outcasts? And if you keep them as

outcasts, how do you expect them to act?”7

Remarkably, the overwhelming majority of people branded crimi-

nals and felons struggle mightily to play by the rules and to succeed in

a society seemingly hell-bent on excluding them. Like their forbears,

they do their best to survive, even thrive—against all odds.

No Place Like Home

The first question on the minds of many people released from prison

as they take their first steps outside the prison gates is where will they

sleep that night. Some have families eagerly awaiting them—families

who are willing to let their newly released relative sleep on the couch,

floor, or extra bed indefinitely. Most, however, desperately need to find

a place to live—if not immediately, at least soon. After several days,

weeks, or months of sleeping in your aunt’s basement or on a friend’s

couch, a time comes when you are expected to fend for yourself. Figur-

ing out how, exactly, to do that is no easy task, however, when your fel-

ony record operates to bar you from any public housing assistance. As

one young man with a felony conviction explained in exasperation, “I

asked for an application for Section 8. They asked me if I had a felony.

I said, ‘yes.’ . . . They said, ‘Well, then, this application isn’t for you.’”8

This young man had just hit his first brick wall coming out of pris-

on. Housing discrimination against people branded felons (as well as

suspected “criminals”) is perfectly legal. During Jim Crow, it was legal

to deny housing on the basis of race, through restrictive covenants

and other exclusionary practices. Today, discrimination against people

with criminal records and their families is routine among public and

private landlords alike. Rather than racially restrictive covenants, we

have restrictive lease agreements, barring the new “undesirables.”

Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow : Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, The New Press, 2020.
ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/utarl/detail.action?docID=5651869.
Created from utarl on 2021-11-11 20:18:37.

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T H E C R U E L   H A N D 1 8 1

The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, passed by Congress as part of the

War on Drugs, called for strict lease enforcement and eviction of pub-

lic housing tenants who engage in criminal activity. The act granted

public housing agencies the authority to use leases to evict any ten-

ant, household member, or guest engaged in any criminal activity on

or near public housing premises. In 1996, President Clinton, in an

effort to bolster his “tough on crime” credentials, declared that public

housing agencies should exercise no discretion when a tenant or guest

engages in criminal activity, particularly if it is drug- related. In his

1996 State of the Union address, he proposed “One Strike and You’re

Out” legislation, which strengthened eviction rules and strongly urged

that people with drug convictions be automatically excluded from

public housing based on their criminal records. He later declared, “If

you break the law, you no longer have a home in public housing, one

strike and you’re out. That should be the law everywhere in Ameri-

ca.”9 In its final form, the act, together with the Quality Housing and

Work Responsibility Act of 1998, not only authorized public hous-

ing agencies to exclude automatically (and evict) people with drug

convictions and felonies; it also allowed agencies to bar applicants

believed to be using illegal drugs or abusing alcohol—whether or not

they had been convicted of a crime. These decisions can be appealed,

but appeals are rarely successful without an attorney—a luxury most

public housing applicants cannot afford.

In response to the new legislation and prodding by President Clin-

ton, the Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD) devel-

oped guidelines to press public housing agencies to “evict drug dealers

and other criminals” and “screen tenants for criminal records.”10 HUD’s

“One Strike Guide” calls on housing agencies to “take full advantage of

their authority to use stringent screening and eviction procedures.” It

also encourages housing authorities not only to screen all applicants’

criminal records, but to develop their own exclusion criteria. The

guide notes that agency ratings and funding are tied to whether they

Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow : Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, The New Press, 2020.
ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/utarl/detail.action?docID=5651869.
Created from utarl on 2021-11-11 20:18:37.

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1 8 2 T H E N E W J I M   C R O W

are “adopting and implementing effective applicant screening,” a clear

signal that agencies may be penalized for not cleaning house.11

Throughout the United States, public housing agencies have adopted

exclusionary policies that deny eligibility to applicants even with the

most minor criminal backgrounds. The crackdown inspired by the

War on Drugs has resulted in unprecedented punitiveness, as housing

officials began exercising their discretion to deny poor people access

to public housing for virtually any crime. “Just about any offense will

do, even if it bears scant relation to the likelihood the applicant will

be a good tenant.”12

The consequences for real families can be devastating. Without

housing, people can lose their children. Take for example, the forty-

two-year-old African American man who applied for public housing

for himself and his three children who were living with him at the

time.13 He was denied because of an earlier drug possession charge for

which he had pleaded guilty and served thirty days in jail. Of course,

the odds that he would have been convicted of drug possession would

have been extremely low if he were white. But as an African American,

he was not only targeted by the drug war but then denied access to

housing because of his conviction. Since being denied housing, he has

lost custody of his children and is homeless. Many nights he sleeps

outside on the streets. Stiff punishment, indeed, for a minor drug

offense—especially for his children, who are innocent of any crime.

Remarkably, under current law, an actual conviction or finding of

a formal violation is not necessary to trigger exclusion. Public hous-

ing officials are free to reject applicants simply on the basis of arrests,

regardless of whether they result in convictions or fines. Because Afri-

can Americans and Latinos are targeted by police in the War on Drugs,

it is far more likely that they will be arrested for minor, nonviolent

crimes. Accordingly, HUD policies excluding people from housing

assistance based on arrests as well as convictions guarantee highly

discriminatory results.

Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow : Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, The New Press, 2020.
ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/utarl/detail.action?docID=5651869.
Created from utarl on 2021-11-11 20:18:37.

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T H E C R U E L   H A N D 1 8 3

Perhaps no aspect of the HUD regulatory regime has been as con-

troversial, however, as the “no- fault” clause contained in every public

housing lease. Public housing tenants are required to do far more than

simply pay their rent on time, keep the noise down, and make sure

their homes are kept in good condition. The “One Strike and You’re

Out” policy requires every public housing lease to stipulate that if the

tenant, or any member of the tenant’s household, or any guest of the

tenant, engages in any drug- related or other criminal activity on or off

the premises, the tenancy will be terminated. Prior to the adoption

of this policy, it was generally understood that a tenant could not be

evicted unless he or she had some knowledge of or participation in

alleged criminal activity. Accordingly, in Rucker v. Davis, the Ninth

Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the “no- fault” clause, on the

grounds that the eviction of innocent tenants—who were not accused

or even aware of the alleged criminal activity—was inconsistent with

the legislative scheme.14

The U.S. Supreme Court reversed.15 The Court ruled in 2002 that,

under federal law, public housing tenants can be evicted regardless

of whether they had knowledge of or participated in alleged criminal

activity. According to the Court, William Lee and Barbara Hill were

rightfully evicted after their grandsons were charged with smoking

marijuana in a parking lot near their apartments. Herman Walker

was properly evicted as well, after police found cocaine on his care-

giver. And Perlie Rucker was rightly evicted following the arrest of

her daughter for possession of cocaine a few blocks from home. The

Court ruled these tenants could be held civilly liable for the nonviolent

behavior of their children and caregivers. They could be tossed out of

public housing due to no fault of their own.

In the abstract, policies barring or evicting people who are somehow

associated with criminal activity may seem like a reasonable approach

to dealing with crime in public housing, particularly when crime has

gotten out of control. Desperate times call for desperate measures, it is

Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow : Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, The New Press, 2020.
ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/utarl/detail.action?docID=5651869.
Created from utarl on 2021-11-11 20:18:37.

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1 8 4 T H E N E W J I M   C R O W

often said. The problem, however, is twofold: these vulnerable families

have nowhere to go, and the impact is inevitably discriminatory. People

who are not poor and who are not dependent upon public assistance for

housing need not fear that, if their son, daughter, caregiver, or relative

is caught with some marijuana at school or shoplifts from a drugstore,

they will find themselves suddenly evicted—homeless. But for count-

less poor people—particularly racial minorities who disproportionate-

ly rely on public assistance—that possibility looms large. As a result,

many families are reluctant to allow their relatives—particularly

those who are recently released from prison—to stay with them, even

temporarily.

No one knows exactly how many people are excluded from public

housing because of criminal records, or even the number of people with

criminal records who would be ineligible if they applied. There is no

national data available. We do know, however, that roughly 65 million

people have criminal records, including tens of millions of Americans

who have been arrested but never convicted of any offense, or convict-

ed only of minor misdemeanors, and they too are routinely excluded

from public housing. What happens to these people denied housing

assistance or evicted from their homes? Where do they go? Thousands

of them become homeless. A study conducted by the McCormick Insti-

tute of Public Affairs found that nearly a quarter of guests in homeless

shelters had been incarcerated within the previous year—people who

were unable to find somewhere to live after release from prison walls.

Similarly, a California study reported that an estimated 30 to 50 per-

cent of individuals under parole supervision in San Francisco and

Los Angeles were homeless.16 Access to decent, stable, and affordable

housing is a basic human right, and it also increases substantially the

likelihood a person with a past criminal record will obtain and retain

employment and remain drug- and crime-free. Research conducted

by the Corporation for Supportive Housing in New York State shows

that the use of state prisons and city jails dropped by 74 percent and

Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow : Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, The New Press, 2020.
ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/utarl/detail.action?docID=5651869.
Created from utarl on 2021-11-11 20:18:37.

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T H E C R U E L   H A N D 1 8 5

40 percent respectively when people with past criminal records were

provided with supportive housing.17

People returning “home” from prison are typically the poorest of

the poor, lacking the ability to pay for private housing and routinely

denied public housing assistance—the type of assistance which could

provide some much-needed stability in their lives. For them, “going

home” is more a figure of speech than a realistic option. More than

650,000 people are released from prison each year, and for many, find-

ing a new home appears next to impossible, not just in the short term,

but for the rest of their lives. As a forty-one-year-old African American

mother remarked after being denied housing because of a single arrest

four years prior to her application, “I’m trying to do the right thing; I

deserve a chance. Even if I was the worst criminal, I deserve a chance.

Everybody deserves a chance.”18

Boxed In

Aside from figuring out where to sleep, nothing is more worrisome for

people leaving prison than figuring out where to work. In fact, a study

by the Vera Institute found that during the first month after release

from prison, people consistently were more preoccupied with finding

work than anything else.19 Some of the pressure to find work comes

directly from the criminal justice system. According to one survey of

state parole agencies, forty of the fifty-one jurisdictions surveyed (the

fifty states and the District of Columbia) required parolees to “maintain

gainful employment.”20 Failure to do so could mean more prison time.

Even beyond the need to comply with the conditions of parole,

employment satisfies a more basic human need—the fundamental

need to be self sufficient, to contribute, to support one’s family, and to

add value to society at large. Finding a job allows a person to establish

a positive role in the community, develop a healthy self-image, and

keep a distance from negative influences and opportunities for illegal

Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow : Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, The New Press, 2020.
ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/utarl/detail.action?docID=5651869.
Created from utarl on 2021-11-11 20:18:37.

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1 8 6 T H E N E W J I M   C R O W

behavior. Work is deemed so fundamental to human existence in many

countries around the world that it is regarded as a basic human right.

Deprivation of work, particularly among men, is strongly associated

with depression and violence.

Landing a job after release from prison is no small feat. “I’ve watched

the discrimination and experienced it firsthand when you have to

check the box,” says Susan Burton, a formerly incarcerated woman

who has dedicated her life to providing women released from prison

the support necessary to reestablish themselves in the workforce. The

“box” she refers to is the question on job applications in which appli-

cants are asked to check “yes” or “no” if they have ever been convicted

of a crime. “It’s not only [on] job [applications],” Burton explains. “It’s

on housing. It’s on a school application. It’s on welfare applications. It’s

everywhere you turn.”21

Nearly every state allows private employers to discriminate on the

basis of past criminal convictions. In fact, employers in most states

can deny jobs to people who were arrested but never convicted of any

crime. Only ten states prohibit all employers and licensing agencies

from considering arrests, and three states prohibit some employers

and occupational and licensing agencies from doing so.22 Employers in

a growing number of professions are barred by state licensing agencies

from hiring people with a wide range of criminal convictions, even

convictions unrelated to the job or license sought.23

The result of these discriminatory laws is that virtually every job

application, whether for dog catcher, bus …

After reading chapter 4 create a Reading Response. It should consist of a 700-word paper:

A 400-word summary of the challenges of reentry following incarceration

And 300 words below of a Personal academic response

An academic response is not how you feel about it but what you may critically and professionally state about it. For example, your response might include how well you think the arguments were made and why, what you think might be missing or downplayed and what that might add, what you think the strongest argument is, how the material relates to current trends, how you think it could impact practice or research.