400 years a slave

It’s Sunday movie night again, and today we are watching The 13th, a documentary by Black filmmaker Ava Duvarney, that discusses how Black Americans are are still quite literally enslaved by our ever-evolving systems of mass incarceration and criminal (in)justice policies. This is made possible by the  13th amendment to the constitution, which abolishes slavery … if you’re not a criminal.

Excerpt from the 13th Amendment:

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

The trailer for the Oscar-nominated documentary, which is available on Netflix and can be screened anywhere, by explicit permission of Ava Duvarney and Netflix.

What puts people in prison, and what keeps them there? Mandatory minimum sentencing. Explicitly racist drug policies and the war on drugs. Plea bargaining and bonds in the court system. Incarcerating people affects families and slows down, if not throws a rockslide, onto our path to freedom. That is, this affects the lives of both those Black people in the prison system and those not in the system: generating a generational trauma.

Read more in the Executive Summary from the Sentencing Project on racial perceptions of crime and punishment in the US.

The 13th Amendment also contains a second section:

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Which means WE CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS. Let’s put new people in elected office. Find candidates in your area who are working on Voter Rights and bring more justice in to our Criminal Injustice policies and institutions.

Be sad, be angry, and go vote in the next election.

Want to put a dent in this problem right now? Help pay the bond for somebody charged with a crime in Chicago with the Chicago Community Bond Fund.

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