Author of critically-acclaimed book “The New Jim Crow” to visit Benedictine

February 17, 2015

Alexander--(credit Zocalo-Public-Square)Lisle, Illinois ~ The impact of racial injustice in the American legal system will be the focus of a free lecture by civil-rights-lawyer-turned-legal-scholar Michelle Alexander at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 21 in the Krasa Student Center at Benedictine University.

Alexander is the author of the 2010 book, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” which has been heralded as the “secular bible of a new social movement” by numerous commentators, including political activist and academian Cornel West.

In advance of her presentation, Benedictine is encouraging members of the public to join a community-wide reading group and series of weekly discussions related to the book and its theme. Participants can visit facebook.com/groups/BenUsCCLBookGroup to connect with moderators from Benedictine’s Center for Civic Leadership (CCL) and other readers.

Alexander argues that today’s criminal justice system serves as a contemporary system of racial control, with more black men in prison or jail, on probation or parole, than were enslaved in 1850.

She cites the nation’s war on drugs for unfairly targeting black men, who are sentenced an average of 20 to 50 times longer prison terms than white men convicted of the same crime. Primarily because of these staggering incarcerations rates, the level of black youth poverty is higher today than it was in 1968, she writes.

The book’s title draws a comparison between the discrimination non-violent criminals face today after release from prison with those once applied to blacks in the segregated South. Individuals labeled as felons can be denied the right to vote and be legally discriminated against when it comes to employment, housing, access to education and public benefits.

Alexander was invited to speak at Benedictine as part of the nonpartisan CCL speaker series. Established in 2005 under the direction of former Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan, a 1969 Benedictine graduate and Distinguished Fellow, the CCL seeks to shape a new generation of public leaders and responsible citizens.

Before her book was published, Alexander served as the director of the Racial Justice Project for the ACLU of Northern California, where she helped to lead a national campaign against racial profiling by law enforcement. While an associate at Saperstein, Goldstein, Demchak & Baller, she specialized in plaintiff-side class action lawsuits alleging race and gender discrimination.

She currently holds a joint appointment at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University. Prior to joining the Kirwan Institute, Alexander was an associate professor of law at Stanford Law School, where she directed the Civil Rights Clinics.

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Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois, and Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls more than 5,000 students in 59 undergraduate and 23 graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the seventh consecutive year in 2017. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (hlcommission.org). For more information, contact (630) 829-6300, admissions@ben.edu or visit ben.edu.

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