Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in Southern Studies


Southern Studies

First Advisor

Barbara Combs

Second Advisor

James M. Thomas

Third Advisor

Kathryn McKee

Relational Format



Abstract: the purpose of this research is to discover how mass incarceration and other historical methods of racialized social control in the south have preserved and reinforced habits of judgment that adversely affect the social mobility of black males in Mississippi. A historical research method was employed to locate and analyze recurring themes of habitual judgment patterns justifying age-old systems of social control and how those patterns have influenced the current trend of black male incarceration at disproportionate rates. Questionnaires were administered to professional employees from the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) in attempt to gather useful data about the socioeconomic backgrounds of the black male inmate population and identify the key factors for their imprisonment. Theories of crime and deviance were applied to establish and identify relationships between recurring concepts found in existing literature and inferences made from data collected from questionnaires completed by MDOC employees. Findings suggest that disconnections from institutions because of discriminatory practices and social stratification, and the weakening of black males' bonds to the very institutions of power that prevent crime (e.g., family, education, and employment) as a consequence of imprisonment, enable the reproduction of habits of judgment which manifest through popular culture (e.g., media, literature, etc.) Rationalizing public concern. In turn, policies implemented to ensure public safety target disadvantaged black communities, engender higher rates of arrest and incarceration, and facilitate a vicious cycle of crime and poverty preserving the socioeconomic inferiority of black males in Mississippi.



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