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America Is the PrisonArts and Politics in Prison in the 1970s$
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Lee Bernstein

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780807833872

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: July 2014

DOI: 10.5149/9780807898321_bernstein

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The Age of Jackson: George Jackson and the Radical Critique of Incarceration

The Age of Jackson: George Jackson and the Radical Critique of Incarceration

(p.51) Chapter Two The Age of Jackson: George Jackson and the Radical Critique of Incarceration
America Is the Prison

Lee Bernstein

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter shows how the conservative politicians steered the national debate regarding criminal justice policy toward increasing repression during the late 1960s and early 1970s. At the same time, the culture of American prisons became increasingly radical. Influenced by the New Left, the civil rights movement, and revolutions in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, a growing number of inmates interpreted the convergence of liberal and conservative criminal justice policies as the evolution of an increasingly reactionary, repressive, and neocolonial state. If Richard Nixon saw himself as the standard-bearer of a return to order that would protect the civil rights of “decent citizens,” many prisoners would agree with the assessment by the radical Guyanese historian and politician Walter Rodney that Nixon was “America's chief prison warder.” If, as Arthur Schlesinger believed, the 1830s and 1840s could be deemed the “Age of [Andrew] Jackson,” then the radicalization of American prisoners during the 1970s ushered in a second age of Jackson—George Jackson.

Keywords:   conservative politicians, national debate, criminal justice policy, repression, American prisons, New Left, civil rights movement

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