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10.8: Summary/Review

  • Page ID
    • Ulysses Acevedo & Kay Fischer

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    In this chapter we reviewed the various institutions, policies, laws, and practices that have led to the creation of the Prison Industrial Complex and mass incarceration of largely Black Americans and poor communities of color. The media and rhetoric by politicians and police have helped to normalize imprisonment and criminalization of people of color, when in fact decades of research and activism has proven how ineffectual imprisonment and policing are when it comes to increasing safety. Instead, many scholars and activists cited in this chapter have expressed that policing and caging people is an extension of white supremacy, slavery, Jim Crow, and settler-colonialism.

    We’ve reviewed the ways in which drug use has been criminalized for political reasons in the War on Drugs. Due to this shift and continued heavy policing in poor communities of color and extraordinary discretion given to law enforcement, we’ve witnessed the normalization of caging millions of people and allowing system-impacted people to be legally discriminated against after having served their time.

    This chapter has also explained the ways in which our punishment system is, as Angela Y. Davis (2003) argues, entrenched in antiblack racism, and other racialized histories of minoritized people. Michelle Alexander poignantly states that the U.S. justice system is “no longer concerned…with the prevention and punishment of crime, but rather with the management and control of the dispossessed” (2020, p. 233). We see this in how policing is drenched in the legacy of systemic violence related to settler-colonialism, worker suppression, slavery, and anti-immigrant practices, including practices that target women and girls, and members of the LGBTQ community. We see institutional racism tied to policing that targets people of color for stop-and-search, even though whites are more likely to use and carry weapons and drugs. We also see racial discrimination in the conviction process, as many are denied legal representation and forced to plead guilty or snitch for a lesser sentence. Despite pages of data proving racial discrepancies in sentencing, the Supreme Court has made it impossible to challenge racial discrimination practiced by law enforcement unless it’s explicitly admitted.

    Furthermore, this chapter has reviewed the ways in which children are increasingly policed in our schools with shocking and tragic outcomes that push more youth into the criminal justice system.

    Still, this chapter has also reviewed the ways in which our communities have and continue to resist policing and caging and fight back against systemic oppression. Some examples are prison abolitionists organizing for a prison and police free future. Others are working toward dismantling school police and instead instituting effective programs like Restorative Justice. The authors of this chapter hope readers will see how these struggles are intrinsically tied to anti-racist movements for justice and equity.

    Key Terms

    Journal Prompts

    Class Activities

    In-person - Racial Profile while Driving

    In-person - Four Corners:

    It is suggested to conduct this activity before students read this chapter and learn about Incarceration, Policing, and State Sanctioned Violence. “Four Corners” is an activity that allows students to move around the classroom and discuss their opinions or share their experiences with different classmates in response to general statements read by the instructor. The statements may be generalizations or based on stereotypes related to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.


    4 pieces of paper


    Statements (use ones below or write your own)


    Write the following words on a piece of paper (one per paper) and tape in the four corners of the classroom: “Agree,” “Disagree,” “Strongly Agree,” and “Strongly Disagree”

    Instruct students to gather in the center of the classroom and listen to each statement (see samples below) read by the instructor. Once a statement is read, students will quietly decide which corner they move to. For example, if a student “agrees” with the statement read by the instructor, they will move into the corner labeled “Agree.” Students must choose a corner - if they are stuck between two, ask them to move to a corner that’s the closest to how they feel about the statement.

    Once students choose a corner, they may discuss the following with people in their corner:

    Why did you choose this corner?

    Why do you think others chose their corners?

    After giving students 5 minutes or so to discuss in smaller groups, the instructor can ask a representative from each corner to share a summary of what was discussed in their respective corners. A healthy debate may ensue after students hear each of the corners’ responses and individuals may decide to move if they’ve changed their minds based on what is shared by their classmates.

    Repeat steps 2 to 4 for each statement.

    Once completed, you may have students debrief on this experience.

    Review these Vocabulary words before the 4 Corners Statements:

    • Punishment: penalties imposed as a result of a criminal offense (i.e., incarceration). The goal is to penalize the offender and to deter others from committing criminal offenses.
    • Rehabilitation: actions and programs designed to change the behavior of an offender or help them with specific issues. The goal is for offenders to successfully re-enter society as productive citizens.
    • Restorative Justice: specific approaches (such as mediation and sentencing circles) that focus on the offender understanding and addressing their actions harmed the victim and community. The goal is reconciliation and healing for all parties involved.

    Sample Statements:

    This page titled 10.8: Summary/Review is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Ulysses Acevedo & Kay Fischer (ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative (OERI)) .