Race, Incarceration, and American Values by Glenn C. Loury
(Boston Review Books)

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Synopsis

The United States, home to five percent of the worlds' population, now houses
twenty-five percent of the world's prison inmates. Our incarceration rate--at 714 per 100,000
residents and rising--is almost forty percent greater than our nearest competitors (the Bahamas,
Belarus, and Russia). More pointedly, it is 6.2 times the Canadian rate and 12.3 times the rate in
Japan. Economist Glenn Loury argues that this extraordinary mass incarceration is not a response to
rising crime rates or a proud success of social policy. Instead, it is the product of a
generation-old collective decision to become a more punitive society. He connects this policy to our
history of racial oppression, showing that the punitive turn in American politics and culture
emerged in the post-civil rights years and has today become the main vehicle for the reproduction of
racial hierarchies. Whatever the explanation, Loury agues, the uncontroversial fact is that changes
in our criminal justice system since the 1970s have created a nether class of Americans--vastly
disproportionately black and brown--with severely restricted rights and life chances. Moreover,
conservatives and liberals agree that the growth in our prison population has long passed the point
of diminishing returns. Stigmatizing and confining of a large segment of our population should be
unacceptable to Americans. Loury's call to action makes all of us now responsible for ensuring that
the policy changes.

 

About Glenn C. Loury

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Glenn C. Loury is the Merton P. Stoltz Professor of the Social Sciences in the Department of Economics at Brown University. A 2002 Carnegie Scholar, he is the author of The Anatomy of Racial Inequality.
 
Published August 22, 2008 by The MIT Press. 96 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Crime, Law & Philosophy. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Race, Incarceration, and American Values

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Tommie Shelby, Professor of African-American Studies and Philosophy at Harvard goes a step further and suggests that mass incarceration is not the core of the current struggle facing African-Americans.

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Continued on the next page Page 1 — Page 2 — Page 3

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While Loury discusses justice in secular terms, his approach has echoes of the "Golden Rule."

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He connects this policy to our history of racial oppression, showing that the punitive turn in American politics and culture emerged in the post-civil rights years and has today become the main vehicle for the reproduction of racial hierarchies.

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Citing one example, Loury refers to the research of Princeton University sociologist Bruce Western who found that the racial disparity in incarceration rates is greater than another other social arena, including unemployment, non-marital child rearing, infant mortality, and net worth.

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