Do prisoners’ lives matter? Examining the intersection of punitive policies, racial disparities and COVID-19 as state organized race crime

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Abstract

Numerous Michigan prisons emerged as national hotspots early in the coronavirus crisis. once the virus entered the prisons, key actions and inaction by Michigan department of Corrections and Governor Gretchen Whitmer allowed CoVId-19 to flourish unabated, resulting in unnecessary infection and death; a form of cruel and unusual punishment. The callous neglect of the human rights of prisoners during the pandemic is not new, but rather the result of decades of punitive sentencing policies that disproportionately target people of colour. Through a case study examination of early coronavirus outbreaks in Michigan prisons, this paper will consider how Truth in Sentencing legislation, increasingly long prison sentences and declining parole rates, helped set the stage for coronavirus to spread, disproportionately harming Black and elderly prisoners. as the intersecting crises of coronavirus and mass incarceration exemplify, state crime scholars can no longer ignore the state-organized race crime occurring behind prison walls.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-44
Number of pages29
JournalState Crime Journal
Volume10
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2021

Keywords

  • CoVId-19
  • Coronavirus
  • Mass incarceration
  • Michigan
  • Prisons
  • State-organized race crime

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