The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, 10th Anniversary Edition
Narrated by: Karen Chilton
Length: 16 hrs and 57 mins
4.8 out of 5 stars (9,875 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Seldom does a book have the impact of Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. Since it was first published in 2010, it has been cited in judicial decisions and has been adopted in campus-wide and community-wide reads; it helped inspire the creation of the Marshall Project and the new $100 million Art for Justice Fund; it has been the winner of numerous prizes, including the prestigious NAACP Image Award; and it has spent nearly 250 weeks on the New York Times best seller list.

Most important of all, it has spawned a whole generation of criminal justice reform activists and organizations motivated by Michelle Alexander’s unforgettable argument that “we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it”. As the Birmingham News proclaimed, it is “undoubtedly the most important book published in this century about the U.S.”

Now, 10 years after it was first published, The New Press is proud to issue a 10th-anniversary edition with a new preface by Michelle Alexander that discusses the impact the book has had and the state of the criminal justice reform movement today. 

©2010, 2012, 2020 Michelle Alexander (P)2012, 2020 Recorded Books

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Editor's Pick

Shedding light on a mass injustice
"I’m known as a bit of a true crime junkie around the office, and I can talk your ear off about how ethically executed content is the future of the genre. But there are bigger fish to fry than just salacious stories about serial killers and cults—like how the US criminal justice system has come to replace segregation as a large-scale tool of racial oppression. Civil rights lawyer Michelle Alexander’s extensively researched, groundbreaking work on mass incarceration is a must-listen for anyone interested in the hot topic of criminal justice reform, and the myriad racial and ethical issues surrounding it."
Kat J., Audible Editor

What listeners say about The New Jim Crow

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    4 out of 5 stars

Justice denied

The author builds the case that the mass incarceration of people is no mistake as the system has been made as the next evolution of the old Jim Crow laws in the south. She focuses on a broken war on drugs that have lead to a normalcy in the poor communities of everyone having a criminal back ground and how that background becomes a scarlet letter keeping them out of society and severely limiting their life choices.

61 people found this helpful

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An essential read. A horrifying reality.

The New Jim Crow has been reopening my eyes to the modern system of enslavement that still exists in our drug war culture. It’s a mechanized system of mass incarceration that ingests people and spits out corpses with the brandished label of a “criminal.”

Too often we can create tunnel vision excuses for panoramic systems of injustice because we only analyze a problem based on the top 10% of the iceberg that’s in our face, meanwhile a behemoth lurks beneath the surface unnoticed. Michelle Alexander’s work in this book helps complete the picture. She dives down to get beneath the superficial anecdotes. She relays the history, identifies tipping points along the way and uses broad strokes and individual stories to make the message clear: Slavery may have ended, civil rights may be written into law, but there is a still a purposeful and intentional modern Jim Crow war against communities of color, and African Americans in particular, that can’t be denied.

I strongly suggest if you’re a person of justice or seeking understanding, that you pick up The New Jim Crow.

123 people found this helpful

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An eye opener

This is the first book I read about this subject matter. It is a good introduction to what happened between the civil rights movement in the 1950s and today in the U.S. in how segregation has evolved from a visible to an invisible most dangerous hand that manipulates the politics of encarceration within a legal frame and power control by restricting voting rights and access to public assistance to felons to perpetuate a cycle that locks out "the black and brown undesirable" from the economic and political arena.

I am a younger Latino so I was not aware of half the things I learned here. The book will teach you about the current social struggle of black and brown communities in the U.S.

While I am fortunate to be bilingual and read the book in English, I wish it were available in Spanish to extend awareness to monolingual Latinos in the U.S. who would deeply benefit from this reading.

68 people found this helpful

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Repetitive and in need of some supporting data

The thought-provoking thesis of this book is compelling and persuasive. Unfortunately, the author's repetition lengthens the book without adding much value. Moreover, several statements are made repeatedly that seem plausible (for example about unemployment statistics, missing fathers, etc.) but would have benefited from analytic support or data.

Overall, I learned a lot and felt persuaded. I just would have preferred pithier, shorter argument supported by a few more facts and a bit more data.

52 people found this helpful

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On behalf of humanity, thank you Michelle.

As young human living in the Bay Area, I intuitively knew the deck was stacked against me and all those who looked like me. Thank you Michelle Alexander for Illuminating the very nature of our nations parasitic and perverted system of justice.

To think in my juvenile rebellion against this system I unwittingly played their game. I, like the others in my hood, acted out the roles displayed on TV and the movies eventually landing me in jail. While in jail I realized my juvenile rebellion, subsequent jail time, and fines were feeding the very parasites I was rebelling against. Unbeknownst to me these same parasites are feeding on poor whites as well, and pitting us against each other.

52 people found this helpful

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An extremely well constructed argument

I heard Michelle Alexander speaking about this book, and immediately her premise intrigued me. I'd always known that our criminal justice system was biased, but the scope of it was shocking... and thinking about it as a system as detrimental as Jim Crow had never even occurred to me.

Her exploration of the topic in the book is fascinating. I'm halfway through and I'm already amazed, frustrated and enraged. I've always been concerned about social justice and civil rights. I went to law school because of my passion for these issues. But I didn't realize until this book, just how oppressive and racist our supreme court has been. I'd seen all the cases she wrote about, and had been independently outraged at each of them... but I didn't realize how they all worked in concert to leave no judicial remedy to systematic racism.

As a white man, I find that other white men will occasionally make racist comments or jokes around me. I believe that most of these people feel comfortable doing so only because they believe that real institutional racism is a thing of the past, and so that their own bias is benign. "We have a black president, so racism is over". This book is arming me with a fantastic rebuttal to those people.

This book should be read by every employer, landlord, politician, judge, and prosecutor in the US. Actually it should be read be read by every American, period.

I've often wondered how so many white people could have stayed silent and complacent in the face of Jim Crow. Now I realize that I am guilty of doing the same under a regime that is just as harmful.

This book has changed the way I look at the world. Hopefully it will spark serious reform in this country.

68 people found this helpful

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SHE HAS A HUGE CHIP ON HER SHOULDER

Author is filled with hate and bitterness. It was a tremendous struggle to finish this book. Not what I expected at all. It you are of the Social Justice Warrior (SJW), Black Lives Matter (BLM), Truly believe in the isms Racism, Sexism etc then this a read you will likely relish. Two stars is too kind for this hate-filled book.

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Shocking, Important and Brilliant

As a white Londoner now living in SoCal I witnessed the ‘war on drugs’ and the resulting boom in prison growth with a combination of disinterest and perhaps mild confusion. Many things confuse me about the US; like why poor working class white people vote against their own best interests so often, and why do people with so much economically in common not get along better. I experienced the phenomena of racism in America at a distant third hand. It did occur to me on occasion that the entire weird situation of race, colorblindness and the massive growth in the prison population could be seen as a massive socio political “Pelican Brief” style conspiracy… it couldn't be could it? Well, if this book is even only a fraction true that is precisely what this is.

This book proposes that what we have seen in the last few decades is exactly that. A conspiracy between right wing political elites to control a section of our society which had formerly been controlled by slavery then by Jim Crow. It’s an excellent example of evil flourishing when good people do nothing. If you are a member of the hard right this book will make your blood boil. It makes an excellent case against your core views and beliefs with extensive and detailed evidence for the case, which will likely send you running back to Fox News to get your reality reinforced. If you lean even slightly liberal or are just a busy middle of the road kind of person who has scratched your head about “those people” getting sent to jail in such large numbers this book will rock your world. Either way you should read this. I defy you not to have at least one “aha!” moment per chapter….this book will haunt you…it may even make you cry.

If you want to attempt to come to terms with what ‘the war on drugs’ unfair policing, mandatory minimums and the impact that so many people getting felony convictions for such minor crimes has had on our society this book will take you by the hand and lead you through the last hundred or so years of our history and open your eyes. The conclusion is as startling as it is depressing, every thinking person in our society should read this book…and perhaps we can then start to solve the problem it so disturbingly describes.

112 people found this helpful

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REDUNDANT

The content and discussion of the racial underpinnings of the war on drugs and the shameful mass incarceration of people of color is spot on and well documented. My chief criticism is that the author uses the same discussion points chapter after chapter - often repeating wholesale the same phrases or sentences over and over and over again. This would be a great 5 hour listen, but the redundancy is both distracting and frustrating.

8 people found this helpful

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An important read for all who treasure justice

Would you listen to The New Jim Crow again? Why?

This a very dense yet understandable expaination of a common corruption of US justice.

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

It revealed the silent struggles of those people whom we, despite our race, consider as the others. It brought in sharp relief the perils of casual drug use and poverty. If you enjoyed the book the Working Poor, this book is the other side of the page. I would also add that the overriding sense of the fallacy of exceptionalism, as applied to any group. In brief, most people are not exceptional, yet should you need to be above average to live a good life, and have a secure future? Should poverty or race magnify your lack of exceptionalism often to the level of tragedy. Should a teenage indescretion doom you to never being eligble to vote, or be eliglble for any public assistance, including basic food security. And can we afford to keep and increasingly large segment of the population in custody or supervision?

Which scene was your favorite?

Although scenes are not relevant to this book, the most compelling understanding that I gained was the impact of many seemingly innocous supreme court decisions.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The stories about how grandmothers have been evicted from public housing because their grandson was arrested for drug possesion in a nearby park. Also, the explaination of pretex stops as a policy to search vehicles.

Any additional comments?

We should all be aware of this and many other forms of corruption that are rife in the US justice and legislative systems. If not from a sense of fairness, then from a sense of self peservation. As this population becomes more diverse these kinds of injustices are the meat and gravy of widespread social unrest. As our economy becomes increasingly dependent on machines, websites, and automation more and more people will be forced out of the mainstream of American life, and into the disenfranchised. Remember the history of the French revolution.

15 people found this helpful