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New Prison Study: Race and Racism Placed at Center of Why U.S. Imprisons So Many of Its Citizens

AlterNet / By Liliana Segura

Two criminologists have concluded, in a new study investigating public attitudes behind harsh sentencing, that the warehousing of African Americans and other minorities is no accident. Rather, “racial resentments are inextricably entwined in public punitiveness.” In other words, racism and the rise of “tough on crime” policies go hand in hand.

James Unnever of the University of South Florida-Sarasota and Francis Cullen of the University of Cincinnati acknowledge the “lengthy roster” of previous studies on race and the U.S. prison system; yet theirs manages to contribute something crucial to the current debate: “… [G]iven the large body of research that documents a substantive association between punitiveness and racial animus,” they write, “it is somewhat disconcerting that theories of the mass-incarceration movement do not place race and racism at the center of their explanation for why the United States imprisons so many of its citizens.”

Liliana Segura Continues