I have recently become reacquainted with a book that was written a little over four years ago by an associate professor of law at Ohio State University.
The author, Michelle Alexander, also holds an appointment at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. Alexander’s book should be required reading for all our state lawmakers as they prep and hone their agendas for the current session.
It is common knowledge that reforming the criminal justice system will be a priority in the state house. For that reason Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow could serve to illuminate the fallacy of the "tough on crime" mindset that captures politicians in an election year.
According to the author of The New Jim Crow, a disproportionate number of felons identified as African-American men are legally barred from voting, employment, housing, education, and public benefits. This phenomenon is the result of a decades long War on Drugs and countless legislative measures enacted to demonstrate how elected officials are "tough on crime."
As our legislators contemplate the direction of our state in the coming weeks and months, it is my hope that they might focus on helping young African-American and black men succeed through legislative and community actions that cultivate real compassion and reconciliation. Instead of being "tough on crime" and perpetuating the New Jim Crow through mass incarceration, our legislators might actually be instrumental toward seeing that these young men complete their debt to society and return as positively contributing members of their communities.
More Life to You and Joy in the coming year.
Rev. Mark C. Pafford
Chaplain and Minister