Crime and Punishment and the Black Community: Michael Fortner on The Thought Project

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Manage episode 285344856 series 1953166
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Michael Javen Fortner is an assistant professor of political science at The Graduate Center, CUNY and a senior fellow at the Niskanen Center in Washington, D.C. He is the author of Black Silent Majority: The Rockefeller Drug Laws and the Politics of Punishment, and he recently published a policy paper, “Reconstructing Justice: Race, Generational Divides, and the Fight Over ‘Defund the Police’.” In his book, Fortner looks at why Governor Nelson Rockefeller, a liberal Republican, embraced “draconian” drug laws and how they influenced the modern American criminal justice system and the country’s mass incarceration of Black men. Fortner explains in this podcast, “They instituted these mandatory minimum sentences that basically said if you got caught possessing a small amount of marijuana, of any drugs, you could go to prison for years and years. There's really no discretion in the courts that if you got caught, you lost a huge chunk of your life.” In this wide-ranging discussion about race and criminal justice in America, Fortner discusses his research on mass incarceration, his hopes for the Biden administration, and the work that remains.

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