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Political Prisoners - Racism and the Politics of Imprisonment

NCJ Number
Date Published
73 pages
This report argues that the criminal justice system is biased against nonwhites and the poor and that many prison inmates are political prisoners.
The report details the history of political prisoners in the United States with emphasis on impacts on minorities. Evidence indicating that the current problem grew out of past racial and political practices is demonstrated, and present realities and the status of minority political prisoners are described. It is pointed out that the racism in American society and the social, economic, and political oppression of nonwhites by the political establishment have meant that racial minorities are far more likely than are whites to be imprisoned and to become the victims of discriminatory practices of the criminal justice system. The racial inequality perpetuated by the dominant institutional structures also increases the likelihood that Afro-American, American Indians, Puerto Ricans, and Mexican Americans will become involved in criminal activities. Avenues for advancement and self-expression open to members of the dominant white majority are not open to these minorities. While in jail, members of minorities often become politicized in that they become aware of the social and racial factors that have played a part in their incarceration. This politicization results in their repression by prison authorities. A discussion of relevant literature, footnotes, 57 references, and statistical data are included. Information on the members of National Minority Advisory Council on Criminal Justice, whose views are represented by this report, is provided.