Tapestries: Interwoven voices of local and global identities


This paper examines how the systems of power of neoliberalism, scientific racism, and mass incarceration intersect to construct and uphold the image of “black criminality” and “blackness as a risk” to society. Risk assessments used to determine prison sentencing exemplify this phenomenon. Histories of deliberate associations between blackness and criminality--through science, media, political rhetoric, and economic systems--create a field in which risk assessment is widely regarded as a useful and scientifically neutral tool in mass incarceration. Particular scientific, economic, and carceral circumstances culminating in the 21st century collude to elevate risk assessments into one aspect of a big data apparatus endowed with the capacity to predict and control future behaviors. The paper suggests future directions for scientific research to promote racial justice in the context of mass incarceration.

Author Biography

Olivia Sailors (she/her/hers) is a graduating senior at Macalester College from Newton, KS. She will be graduating with a double major in American Studies and Educational Studies. She is most interested in reforming discipline and curriculum in schools to produce more equal and equitable outcomes for marginalized youth. She extends her thanks to everyone who made it possible for her to attend college and publish this research.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.