Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow (2011) has caused a huge storm of discussion, debate and controversy in the United States. It may well be a book that sparks a new social movement. Alexander documents the rise of mass incarceration in the USA, and link this to entrenched racism, poverty and injustice. The privatising and ‘outsourcing’ of prison as business, and the ‘law and order’ turn are part of neoliberal politics the world over.
This has obvious relevance in Aotearoa. The prison system disproportionately affects Maori and Pasifika people. The powers of the state – to harass, humiliate, detain and lock-up – are felt every day in brown people’s lives. The history of white settler colonial rule has relied on locking up and disenfranchising Maori people. A new phase in capitalism, and the symptoms of poverty in recession, looks to imprisonment again. [Read more...]