Union League of Chicago Welcomes Law Professor and Author Michelle Alexander; The Human Cost of Criminal Justice Policy: A Forum

On May 3, 2013, an overflow crowd at the Union League Club of Chicago welcomed Michelle Alexander, professor of law at Ohio State University Law School. Professor Alexander is also the author of the bestselling book, The New Jim Crow; Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness.  The book was on the New York Times bestseller list. 

Professor Alexander was introduced by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. 

U.S. Congressman Danny Davis of the 7th Illinois Congressional District was one of the many honored guests who attended.


Professor Alexander spoke about social justice. Her book, The New Jim Crow, won rave reviews and has been featured in national radio and television media outlets, including MSNBC, MPR, Bill Moyers Journal, Tavis Smiley, C-SPAN and Washington Journal, among others.  The centerpiece of Professor Alexander’s talk was the fact that inordinate numbers of young black men are incarcerated in the United States prisons. She pointed out that the U.S. prison population, based on percentages, is the largest in the world by a great deal. More than half of those incarcerated are serving sentences on relatively minor drug charges. Professor Alexander indicated that black men are targeted through the War on Drugs initiative that has decimated communities of color.

In addition, Professor Alexander stated that the arrests and incarceration of people of color has reduced millions of Americans to second-class status. The collateral consequences of arrests and felony convictions are wide-ranging, including the loss of voting privileges, public housing, state licenses and employment. There is no uniformity in laws of the states and at local levels with respect to the little box regarding felony convictions. Not only do individuals lose their rights, but they also lose the ability to survive by way of housing and food stamps. 

According to Professor Alexander, there are now 65 million Americans with criminal records. Those individuals are reduced to second-class citizenship because of their arrest and conviction records, which make it nearly impossible to gain legal employment and housing. There are 3.9 million Illinois residents with criminal records. Professor Alexander emphasized the need for grassroot groups to move against mass incarceration. She said that there are “grass top” groups that fight mass incarcerations, but few are effective. She compared the need for rooted groups to move against this systemic incarceration process to the successes of the civil rights movement and the gay rights movement. 

Robert Kreisman, who has served as chairman of the Public Affairs Committee, attended the forum and is a member of the board of directors of the Union League Club of Chicago. 

Kreisman Law Offices has been practicing law representing individuals, families and businesses for more than 37 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Naperville, Streamwood, Elmhurst, Elmwood Park, Highwood, Chicago (Lincoln Square), Chicago (Rogers Park), Glencoe, Glenview and Winnetka, Ill.

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