New Jim Crow Cited in New York Stop and Frisk Decision

Friday, August 16, 2013

Two important decisions on Monday, August 12, indicate significant progress in the efforts to reform our criminal justice system: in New York City’s Floyd case on stop and frisk a federal judge ruled that this controversial policing practice violates constitutional rights, and Attorney General Eric Holder announced that federal prosecutors will no longer invoke mandatory minimum sentencing laws for low-level drug offenders. In her opinion against the City of New York, Judge Shira Scheindlin referenced Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow twice, citing the book for her conclusion that “rather than being a defense against the charge of racial profiling” the City’s argument “is itself a racially biased explanation,” (see page 56 of the court decision) and again in her remedy opinion, referencing the racial disparities in our criminal justice system and the biased policing that perpetuates them.

Michelle Alexander was also quoted in a front-page New York Times article on the two legal decisions on Monday, saying that “for those of us who have become increasingly alarmed over the years at the millions of lives that have been wasted due to the drug war and the types of police tactics that have been deployed in the get-tough-on-crime movement, today’s announcements give us fresh hope that there is, in fact, a growing public consensus that the path that we, the nation, have been on for the past 40 years has been deeply misguided and has caused far more harm and suffering than it has prevented.” Michelle Alexander’s response to the George Zimmerman verdict was also published in the July 29 issue of Time magazine. The New Press congratulates the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and New Press Board member Michael Ratner, CCR president emeritus, on their victory in the Floyd case.