How and Why Black Male Incarceration Is Undermining Martin Luther king, Jr.'s "Last Wish"

Political scientist Keith Reeves '88 says the magnitude of the black prison population is a crisis that has profound consequences for the social fabric of urban families and neighborhoods.

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The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and other civil rights activists were imprisoned countless times as part of a deliberate strategy to harass and intimidate them. In 1954, 98,000 African-Americans were incarcerated in jails and prisons across this country. Since then, the black prison population has grown to nearly one million; 864,000 are black men. Here, Associate Professor of Political Science Keith Reeves '88 examines this development and argues that the policy of “locking up” black men to combat crime has not been without profound consequences for the social fabric of urban families and neighborhoods. Indeed, he states the magnitude of this crisis is undermining King's "last wish." As a Swarthmore undergraduate, Reeves majored in political science with a concentration in Black Studies and public policy. A former Henry Luce Scholar, he now teaches courses across the arenas of American government, electoral politics, and public opinion; racial politics and voting rights policy; the urban underclass, poverty, and public policy; and behavioral research methods. Reeves is the author of Voting Hopes or Fears?: White Voters, Black Candidates, and Racial Politics in America (1997) and is also the director of the College's Center for Social and Policy Studies.