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Parenti, Christian, "The 'New' Criminal Justice System: State Repression from 1968 to 2001," Monthly Review, July 2001.

Abstract: Parenti analyzes how the "New" Criminal Justice System is an integral part of the needs of capital and the ideology of white supremacy. He asserts that state repression is about creating political obedience and regulating the price of labor.

Chief components of the "New" Criminal Justice System:

  • Policing and incarceration-(as well as INS detention centers, the militarized border, psych wards, halfway houses, hospital emergency rooms, homeless shelters, skid row and the ghetto)-all serve to contain and manage the social impacts of poverty.
  • In Parenti's words, "criminal justice regulates, absorbs, terrorizes and disorganizes the poor. At the same time it promulgates racism; demonizing, disenfranchising, and marginalizing ever-larger numbers of brown working-class people."

Three phases of the new repression:

  • The first began as a response to the "civil disturbances" of the mid-sixties and lasted until the late seventies. By the late seventies even many mainstream, middle-class White Americans began to tire of government repression as Watergate and other scandals exposed the seamier side of politics and policing. This caused a momentary pause in the otherwise forward momentum of the criminal justice juggernaut.
  • The second phase began in the mid-eighties with "Reaganomics" (an effort to boost profit margins by increasing the rate of exploitation) and the right-wing assault on the disadvantaged and dispossessed. Parenti gives statistics on how the escalating repression of the '80s hit people of color hardest, and Black people hardest of all.
  • The third phase: legislative acts of the Clinton presidency such as the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (expanded use of death penalty) and the "Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act" (eliminated undocumented person's right to due process) which implemented new heights of viciousness.



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