In the early twentieth century, the eugenics movement exercised considerable influence over domestic US public policy. Positive eugenics encouraged the reproduction of “fit” human specimens while negative eugenics attempted to reduce the reproduction of “unfit” specimens like the “feebleminded” and the criminal. Although eugenics became a taboo concept after World War II, it did not disappear. It was merely repackaged. Incarceration is no longer related to stated eugenic goals, yet incapacitation in prisons still exerts a prophylactic effect on human reproduction. Because minorities are incarcerated in disproportionately high numbers, the prophylactic effect of incarceration affects them most dramatically. In fact, for black males, the effect of hyper-incarceration might be so great as to depress overall reproduction rates. This article identifies some of the legal and extralegal variables that would be relevant for such an analysis and calls for such an investigation.
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