by Michelle Alexander

a Review by Frank Timmons

Have you ever seen a movie that was so profound, so earth shattering, and so awakening that you would find yourself thinking about it at all hours of the day and night. That is what you will find in the pages of “The New Jim Crow.” This is a book once read and digested you can never forget because it will totally alter your perceptions of race, poverty, and the nuances of mass incarceration.

I served as a ministry leader for two years in a maximum security prison in Northeast Texas. This experience is what drew me to this book in the first place. When I began to work in the bowels of Telford Prison the first thing I recognized is that the black and brown population was extremely over represented among the incarcerated. I had all kinds of thoughts on why that may be. Most of these thoughts came out of my white perspective. These preconceived biases turned out to be quite wrong and distorted based on my ignorance of the criminal justice system and clouded by my own white privilege.

Michelle Alexander’s book radically changed my perspective when it comes to mass incarceration. She paints an amazing albeit disturbing picture of how the criminal justice system is biased and skewed towards the arrest and sequestering of black and brown people in our prisons and jails. She points out how the “war on drugs” actually provides incentives for the arrest and incarceration of black, brown, and people of poverty through “tough on crime” rhetoric and governmental policy. By reading this book you will begin to understand the post Jim Crow racial code words used by so many of our politicians and government officials both on a state and federal level.

Yes, the “New Jim Crow” is quite a read. You will find yourself uttering out loud as you read – “these actions towards people of color are horrific and heartbreaking.” No, this is not a “feel good” book but it is definitely a book that will expand and challenge your perspectives of the criminal “justice” system and general race biases in the USA. Before you cast your next vote I urge you to spend time in the pages of this book. The very soul of our country just may depend on it.

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