Clive Stafford Smith at the Times Literary Supplement:
By 2014 – the year of the latest available statistics – those under correctional supervision in the US had soared to 6,851,000. This is an extraordinary one in thirty-six American adults, but even that obscures more shocking figures: in the State of Georgia the rate was one in thirteen; male incarceration runs at five times the female rate; perhaps as many as one in three black males can expect to be imprisoned during his lifetime. And yet overall there has been a significant drop in the prison population – of more than 488,900 – from just seven years earlier.
At one level it is heartening, then, that David Dagan and Steven Teles detail a profound shift in attitudes in Prison Break: Why conservatives turned against mass incarceration. In the devolution of bogeymen, the authors note how domestic criminals replaced the “commies” of the Soviet Union. Politicians, the media and pop culture had encouraged Americans to fear the communists, who truly did have an unparalleled ability to do potential harm when we consider their access to nuclear weapons in conjunction with America’s own policy of Mutually Assured Destruction. In the same way the (primarily white) populous was taught to hate and fear (primarily black) criminals. After 9/11, though, the lens of vilification turned on the “Muslim Extremist”. And now, in the words of the new National Security Advisor, Lt General Michael Flynn, fear of Muslims is “rational” and “the term ‘moderate Islam’ is ugly and offensive – Islam is Islam”.
But let us celebrate where we may.