Letters and Politics

How the War on Poverty Became the War on Crime

With Elizabeth Hinton, an Assistant Professor in the Department of History and the Department of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. Hinton’s research focuses on the persistence of poverty and racial inequality in the 20th century United States. Her forth coming book is entitled, From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America.

About the book:

9780674737235-lgIn the United States today, one in every thirty-one adults is under some form of penal control, including one in eleven African American men. How did the “land of the free” become the home of the world’s largest prison system? Challenging the belief that America’s prison problem originated with the Reagan administration’s War on Drugs, Elizabeth Hinton traces the rise of mass incarceration to an ironic source: the social welfare programs of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society at the height of the civil rights era.

Johnson’s War on Poverty policies sought to foster equality and economic opportunity. But these initiatives were also rooted in widely shared assumptions about African Americans’ role in urban disorder, which prompted Johnson to call for a simultaneous War on Crime. The 1965 Law Enforcement Assistance Act empowered the national government to take a direct role in militarizing local police.

By the 1980s, crime control and incarceration dominated national responses to poverty and inequality. Hinton argues that the initiatives of that decade were less a sharp departure than the full realization of the punitive transformation of urban policy implemented by Republicans and Democrats alike since the 1960s.

• The cost of independent media is high. Donate today to KPFA!      • Thank you to Stella Nonna Restaurant in Berkeley, and Renaissance Specialty Cakes from Oakland, for their "Delicious" support during our Fund Drive.      • For more morning news and information check out UpFront daily 7am-9am      

Share This