The construction of mass incarceration as a means of marginalizing Black Americans
The United States has increasingly turned to incarceration as a means of social control as evidenced by the nearly 2.2 million people locked up behind jail and prison walls. This has given the U.S. the dubious distinction of having the highest incarceration rate in the "free" world. Contrary to popular beliefs, the increase in the correctional population has not been due to an increase in crime, but more so to a function of social and political influences, specifically crime control legislation such as mandatory minimums and the war on drugs. Racial discrimination also plays a role in who enters and progresses through the criminal justice system. Racial minorities are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system in relation to their representation in the general U.S. population. Some argue that this is due to their increased involvement in crime, while others argue that it is due to unfair race discrimination. The present study examines the role criminal justice legislation has played in the increased incarceration of Black Americans, particularly Black males; investigates whether race discrimination plays a significant role in the disproportionate rate of incarceration for Black Americans; and explores whether the mass incarceration movement is being used to socially and politically marginalize Black Americans. Criminal justice data and literature suggests that race discrimination does play a role in the disproportionate incarceration of Black Americans. However, the extent of that role is undetermined. A review of the criminal justice stages also suggests that criminal justice legislation along with law enforcement practices have contributed to the increased incarceration of Black Americans. A counterfactual analysis of the 2000 Presidential election showed that had disenfranchised Black ex-offenders been allowed to vote, the outcome would have been different.