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Clemency began to decline in the generation after the civil rights movement. As political activism came to be associated with crime, clemency was increasingly politicized. In Mississippi, as the formal mechanisms of Jim Crow deteriorated and were replaced by sentencing laws that produced more prisoners, the resulting prison overcrowding forced a crisis for which various forms of clemency were urged and deployed as a reasonable response. For a brief moment, gubernatorial clemency became a check on the growth of the prison system. But white conservatives promoted fears that desegregation would lead to racial violence, and they appealed to stereotypes of black criminality to pass punitive legislation and abrogate decades of tradition. The foreclosure of clemency led to low morale among prisoners and acts of resistance. Meanwhile, governors continued to release mansion servants, convicted of murder, as long as they complied with the requirements of deference and submission.

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