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ACLU: Jim Crow laws still exist in legal application and includes racial profiling

By Arooj Ashraf, La Prensa Correspondent

Jim Crow laws may have ended in 1968 but their crippling effects still linger in minority communities today. Advocates argue the bias in the U.S. criminal justice system has disguised overt racism and continues to create a sub-caste of citizens denied rights because of felony convictions.

Cuyahoga County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones listens closely to the discussion

The Cleveland chapter of American Civil Liberties Union held a public forum June 24, 2010 to discuss the New Jim Crow as dubbed by civil rights advocate Michelle Alexander. She is the author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, and states the principles of Jim Crow are still enforced against felons under the guise of legalized discrimination in employment, housing, education, public benefits and jury service, granting them fewer rights than slaves.

African-American men are the largest group incarcerated, followed by Latino men.

James L. Hardiman, legal director of ACLU-Ohio, said the language of racism has become more sophisticated but discriminatory practices of Jim Crow are still common. When a person sees you as an equal, no laws needs to be written, said Hardiman as he explained the history of Jim Crow and struggles civil rights groups faced in repealing the laws.

ACLU of Ohio education director Shakyra Daz shared disturbing statistics that highlight the disparity in numbers of African-American men in prison compared to any other group. Quoting from Alexanders book, Daz said more African-Americans are under correctional control in 2010 than there were enslaved in 1850.

There are currently 1.5 million African-American men who cannot vote in this country because of a felony conviction, said Daz. These statistics are not simply rationalized by the notion that African-American men commit more crimes, Daz explained, but they are targeted and often persecuted more harshly for the same offense committed by any other group.

Hardiman illustrated this through recent cases in Cleveland of identical crimes that received strikingly different punishments based on race. The criminal justice system needs to be revamped, he said.

Daz said the judicial system is heavy on punishment and lenient on rehabilitation, so those convicted return to society and are unable to re-integrate and doomed to lead a life of crime. This should motivate us to be proactive in elections, she said and demanding lawmakers address the main causes of crime rather than punishment only policies.

According to the International Center for Prison Studies, compared to all countries in the world, the United States has the highest fraction of its population in prisons.

Daz said the public should be outraged at the governments priorities in allocating more money to build prisons than investing in the education system. It takes $80,000 to educate a child, and $86,000 to imprison an inmate, she said.

Dr. Michael R. Williams, Director of Black Studies at Cleveland State University said enforcing psychological inferiority was crucial for Jim Crow and its effects are still apparent in todays generations through societal codes that enforce stereotypes, especially in the education system.

Editors Note: Racial profilingas exemplified with Arizonas new anti-immigrant law illustrates another example of Jim Crow laws.

On the Internet: http://www.newjimcrow.com/


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