Drug war’s ‘New Jim Crow’ turns back civil rights

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (ABP)—Four decades of America’s war on drugs has brought on a “New Jim Crow” system in the United States, a noted civil rights lawyer and legal scholar told an American Baptist gathering.

Mass incarceration has created “a growing under-caste” primarily of people of color and turned back many of the hard-won advances of the Civil Rights Movement, Michelle Alexander told American Baptists at their national meeting in Overland Park, Kan.

Roy Medley, general secretary of the 5,200-church American Baptist Churches USA, said planners invited Alexander, former law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun and author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, to the group’s first-ever mission summit in tribute to the denomination’s historic concern for both personal faith and social justice that prompted Northern Baptists to support the abolitionist movement prior to the Civil War.

“We’ve invited Dr. Michelle Alexander because of that rich tradition that we have of concern for justice, to speak to us about an emerging issue in our country, a new social challenge that is also related to race and to poverty, as we consider the issues around mass incarceration, those who are coming out of prison and how many of them lose their rights as citizens as they come out,” Medley said. “How do we deal with that New Jim Crow aspect of our social life in this country?”

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