The Criminalized Majority

22 Jul

Dan Berger is an associate professor of comparative ethnic studies at the University of Washington Bothell. He is the author of several books including Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era, which won the 2015 James A. Rawley Prize from the Organization of American Historians. His latest book, coauthored with Toussaint Losier, is Rethinking the American Prison Movement. Follow him on Twitter @dnbrgr.

David Stein is a Lecturer in the Departments of History and African American Studies at University of California-Los Angeles. His first book, Fearing Inflation, Inflating Fears: The Civil Rights Struggle for Full Employment and the Rise of the Carceral State, 1929-1986, will be published by University of North Carolina Press. He co-hosts and produces Who Makes Cents?: A History of Capitalism Podcast with Betsy Beasley. Follow him on Twitter @davidpstein.

Moorbey'z Blog

by Dan Berger and David Stein

Image: MGN

“Everyone should go to jail, say, once every ten years,” opined novelist and poet Jesse Ball in a recent LA Times article. It may seem like Swiftian satire, but Ball’s proposal is earnest. Addressed “to a nation of jailers,” he argues that a brief but regular stint in jail would serve as the necessary correction to make such institutions more livable–and perhaps less common. “Just think,” he writes, “if everyone in the United States were to become, within a 10-year period, familiar with what it is like to be incarcerated, is there any question that the quality of our prisons would improve?”

But this is an open question. Asking everyone in the country to spend a night in jail could just as easily produce a society of docile subjects, perpetually fearful of challenging the status quo. And this modest proposal confuses…

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