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Locking Up Black Dissidents and Punishing the Poor: The Roots of Mass Incarceration in the US

An Article by Mumia Abu-Jamal and Johanna Fernández

This volume is a leap into the abyss that is the American Gulag. Our purpose is to explore the origins of the current system of carceral punishment, which began to mass-incarcerate poor and working-class African Americans and Latinos living in urban centers beginning in the late 1970s. We link the new characteristics of imprisonment as it then emerged to the campaign of state repression unleashed against the civil rights and black power movements in the 1960s. Some of those imprisoned are veterans of these movements, and are political prisoners. Although this important segment of the prison population remains absent from contemporary public debates on incarceration, the political atmosphere within which ‘60 s black radicals were criminalized is key to understanding the frenzied reaction to the black freedom movement that set the stage for today's hyper-incarceration of poor urban black and brown communities.

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photo credit: Lou Jones