• Sara Rimer

    Senior Contributing Editor

    Sara Rimer

    Sara Rimer A journalist for more than three decades, Sara Rimer worked at the Miami Herald, Washington Post and, for 26 years, the New York Times, where she was the New England bureau chief, and a national reporter covering education, aging, immigration, and other social justice issues. Her stories on the death penalty’s inequities were nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and cited in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision outlawing the execution of people with intellectual disabilities. Her journalism honors include Columbia University’s Meyer Berger award for in-depth human interest reporting. She holds a BA degree in American Studies from the University of Michigan. Profile

    She can be reached at srimer@bu.edu.

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There are 2 comments on Sociologist Jessica Simes’ New Book Explores the Toll of Mass Incarceration and Its Racial Disparities

  1. Interesting article. I agree that there needs to reform for low level drug offenses. I am curious about the interesting findings. Having said that, I wonder what the priorities are. It feels like academics sometimes focus too much on the wrong issues and have a problem of being out-of-touch with common people problems. Repeatedly labeling the issue “mass incarceration” automatically biases the research and loses the balance and complexity.

    Another example of being out of touch is admiringly asking “are prisons obsolete?”. Really? It’s analogous to still supporting “defund the police” movement so fashionable among academics but which is proving to be a disaster in real life for so many the people in poor neighborhoods. Almost everywhere defund-the-police and non-prosecution of low-level crime has been implemented it is either being rolled back or is doing real damage to communities so that even far left progressives like Al Sharpton are complaining that this is not what they signed up for. Why is that? Clearly these issues are more complex than what it is made out to be: a supposed Csystemically racist criminal justice system casually throwing people in prison for low level crimes on mass. They need to be looked at from mutiple angles.

    The unbalanced focus on “mass incarceration” seems to completely dismisses the role of high crime rates and the incredible suffering caused by it in low income communities. It dismisses the effect of even low level crime – if it is widespread – on poverty in the very same communities that academics care about BUT because they don’t live anywhere near these areas do not feel the consequences of the policies they promote.

    My hunch is that if academics actually went to the places they study and talked to regular people living in these communities – places like Baltimore, Chicago and DC – I bet some of them would find that people are much, much more worried about the drug dealing around the corner and their kids being exposed to it day after day walking home from school. I bet they would find that they are much more worried about being the victim of violent crime than the ‘racist’ criminal justice system. I bet that if academics kept an open mind and ditched the ideology and activism, they might find that high crime rates and high tolerance for crime keep poor neighborhoods poor by keeping business investment and the jobs that come with it away from their neighborhoods. This hunch is supported by stats and common sense. This is what seems to be happening as we speak in San Fransisco, Portland, Seattle and NYC – and many other cities – where drug stores, department store and small businesses are being robbed blind and are shuttering as a result. In the name of the ideology of racial equity, outright theft is not being prosecuted. It may sound great but there are costs and consequences for the law abiding people in those communities to wacky progressive policies. The equity ideology when applied to crime so far in practice seems like a good way to turn thriving, gentrified neighborhoods into poor ones and already poor neighborhoods into poorer ones.

    On a lighter but still relevant note, this article repeatedly refer to Hispanics as Latinx, I guess to jump on board the latest fashionable trend? This kind of illustrates my larger point about progressives who don’t live or talk to the people they care about, and so are out of touch with the hearts and minds of average people who are not like them – whatever their race or color. Here is NBC thankfully getting out of its bubble to make my point:


    The reason this matters is that this somewhat condescending attitude when applied to more serious issues like crime and education could do some real damage as we’re seeing now in so many places around the country. Academics have influence over public policy and so have a responsibility to analyze these issues in a non-ideological way – you know like letting even the facts that don’t conform to their world view guide them.

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