When Jail Becomes Normal – The New York Times

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For most white Americans, interactions with the police happen rarely, and they’re often respectful or even friendly. Many white people don’t know a single person who’s currently behind bars.

In many black communities — and especially for black men — the situation is entirely different. Some of the statistics can be hard to fathom:

  • When the government last counted how many black men had ever spent time in state or federal prison — in 2001 — the share was 17 percent. Today, it’s likely closer to 20 percent (and this number doesn’t include people who’ve spent time in jail without being sentenced to prison). The comparable number for white men is about 3 percent.

The rise of mass incarceration over the last half-century has turned imprisonment into a dominant feature of modern life for black Americans. Large numbers of black men are missing from their communities — unable to marry, care for children or see their aging parents. Many others suffer from permanent economic or psychological damage, struggling to find work after they leave prison.

A recent study by the economists Patrick Bayer and Kerwin Kofi Charles found that 27 percent of black men in the prime working years of their lives — between the ages of 25 and 54 — didn’t report earning a single dollar of income in 2014. “That’s a massive number,” Charles, the dean of the Yale School of Management, told me. Incarceration, including the aftereffects, was a major reason.

The anger coursing through America’s streets over the past week has many causes, starting with a gruesome video showing the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. But that anger has also been building up for a long time. It is, in part, anger about incarceration having become normal.

Former military leaders and democracy experts condemned the use of force against citizens. Retired Adm. Mike Mullen wrote in The Atlantic that Trump had “laid bare his disdain for the rights of peaceful protest in this country.” Kori Schake, a former Pentagon official and Republican policy adviser, said, “If we were seeing this in another country, we would be deeply concerned.” Gail Helt, a former C.I.A. analyst, told The Washington Post: “This is what autocrats do. This is what happens in countries before a collapse. It really does unnerve me.”

People in eight states and Washington, D.C., cast ballots in extraordinary circumstances yesterday, and it seemed to go more smoothly than some people feared. “If Tuesday’s vote-by-mail primaries were a test for November, elections officials have reason to be encouraged: a few bumps but no major disasters,” said Stephanie Saul, a Times reporter.

Among the results:

  • Steve King, who’s represented an Iowa House district for nine terms and has a history of racist comments, lost his bid for renomination.

  • Theresa Greenfield, a real estate executive backed by the Democratic Party establishment, won Iowa’s Democratic Senate primary. She will face the Republican incumbent Joni Ernst

  • Ella Jones became the first African-American and the first woman elected mayor in Ferguson, Mo., where the 2014 killing of Michael Brown helped fuel the Black Lives Matter movement.

  • Find the latest election results here.

In a tense company meeting, the Facebook C.E.O. Mark Zuckerberg stood by his decision not to remove or flag Trump’s inflammatory posts.

Some Facebook employees have been in open revolt over the policy. “Mark always told us that he would draw the line at speech that calls for violence,” said one engineer in a resignation note this week. “He showed us on Friday that this was a lie.”

“A lot of people are reading scientific papers for the first time these days, hoping to make sense of the coronavirus pandemic,” Carl Zimmer writes in his latest Matter column. Unfortunately, many scientific papers are hard to read. They’re full of jargon and aren’t intended for a general audience.

But when Carl speaks to scientists on the phone, he often finds that they can tell a riveting, clear story about their research. Of course, most people aren’t going to cold-call scientists — but there is still a good alternative to trying to muddle through academic research papers: Follow the scientists on social media.

“Leading epidemiologists and virologists have been posting thoughtful threads on Twitter,” Carl writes, “laying out why they think new papers are good or bad.” I asked Carl for a list of scientists that people should follow, and he sent me 19 names. They include the virologists Florian Krammer and Angela Rasmussen, the epidemiologists Marc Lipsitch and Caitlin Rivers and the immunologist Akiko Iwasaki.

I’ve created a list of all 19 on Twitter. And if you have ideas for other scientists to follow on social media, send an email to [email protected], with “virus scientists” in the subject field.

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: B, on the periodic table (five letters).

You can find all of our puzzles here.

Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — David

P.S. The word “coronavirologists” appeared for the first time in The Times yesterday, as noted by the Twitter bot @NYT_first_said.

You can see today’s print front page here.

Today’s episode of “The Daily” includes an interview with Mayor Jacob Frey of Minneapolis

The Times is providing free access to much of our coronavirus coverage. Please consider supporting our journalism with a subscription.

Ian Prasad Philbrick and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at [email protected].

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