"The Legacy of Nixon, Reagan, and Horton: How the Tough On Crime Movement Enabled a New Regime of Race-Influenced Employment Discrimination"

Walker Newell
In this article, I explore the interaction between an alleged "backlash" against the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, the rise of "tough on crime" politics, the corresponding explosion in United States incarceration rates, and employment discrimination against individuals with criminal records. I begin by acknowledging scholars who charge that the growth of American prisons has been the direct result of a backlash against the Civil Rights Movement. After exploring the prevalence of "tough on
more » ... crime" politics from roughly , I suggest that the racially-charged political rhetoric fueling rising African-American incarceration rates should cause us to question the desirability of unrestricted discrimination on the basis of criminal records. I proceed to examine the development of mandatory minimum sentencing laws, noting the racially disparate outcomes of the determinacy in sentencing movement and finding further reason to question the legitimacy of allowing employers to indiscriminately screen candidates on the basis of their criminal histories. I then demonstrate that, despite this suspect history, the current law surrounding criminal record-based employment discrimination is largely unconcerned with the labor market rights of ex-offenders. Finally, I examine the prospects of various reforms that might improve the situation of ex-offender job applicants, acknowledging the barriers to comprehensive change and arguing that any reform movement must find its genesis in the African-American community.
doi:10.15779/z38cw3x fatcat:mwbynhzzd5ezxjdgf6y6iparqe