Michelle Alexander's "The Cruel Hand"

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The Cruel Hand In chapter 4 of her book –The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness – Michelle Alexander discusses the legal and social challenges the drug felons face as they struggle to reintegrate themselves into the unwelcoming mainstream American society, after they are released from prison. She explores “the stigma of criminality” (Alexander 141) that follows these people long after they have served their prison sentence. She starts by describing how these drug offenders have often been made to plead guilty to drug charges leveled against them, in exchange for ‘lenient’ court sentences, without really knowing the underlying consequences of their guilt plea. Firstly, Michelle points out that these freed felons will not only stand disqualified from public housing, but that even private house owners are legally authorized to discriminate against them. Secondly, that these freed felons –who are disproportionately African Americans - are discriminated against when it comes to employment, making them even more miserable. However, Michelle adds that those lucky few felons who happen to secure any kind of employment soon come to realize that they are not any better than those who didn’t, because all their earnings are again drained by the numerous legal payments and fines required of them. Furthermore, she describes a situation where those employed are as helpless as the unemployed; they both are hungry, yet they can’t get food stamps or welfare. To cope with the agony of being treated as second class citizens who cannot vote, Michelle says that on one hand these felons choose to nurse their wounds of stigmatization by either remaining silent or lying about their criminal status; and on the other hand they (together with others affected directly or indirectly) have also chosen to embrace their stigma -as evidenced by the gangsta culture so

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