RALEIGH – The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina is demanding that the state Department of Public Safety immediately lift its unconstitutional ban on Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness in North Carolina prisons.
The book appears on the state’s Master List of Disapproved Publication (sic). In a letter sent to officials this week, the civil rights group says that banning the book not only violates the First Amendment rights of prisoners and DPS’s own policies, but is “cruelly ironic,” given its subject matter.
Alexander’s best-selling 2010 book examines the role of race in mass incarceration in the United States and argues that, by targeting Black men through the War on Drugs, the criminal justice system has devastated communities of color and created a “well-disguised system of racialized social control that functions in a manner strikingly similar to Jim Crow.”
In North Carolina, Black people are less than a quarter of the state’s population yet represent more than 52 percent of the state’s prison population.
“For North Carolina – a state with such stark racial disparities in its criminal justice system – to keep a book about racial injustice away from those incarcerated is not just shameful and wrong. It’s also unconstitutional,” said Chris Brook, Legal Director of the ACLU of North Carolina. “Michelle Alexander’s book shines a light on the pervasive racial injustice behind America’s epidemic of mass incarceration. North Carolina officials must lift the state’s ban immediately.”
The New Jersey prison system lifted a similar ban on The New Jim Crow earlier this month.
The ACLU is asking North Carolina to take immediate action to restore The New Jim Crow and audit its list of banned books by February 22.