Jamie’s last letter also has a newspaper article included with that title. Parts of the article resonated with him and he underlined those places. Because he is living through what this newspaper is writing about it must have resonated fairly strongly with him. He carefully tore out the article to send to me. I think it came from a USA Today by Jim Liske, the president of Prison Fellowship. I don’t know the date except that it is fairly recent.
“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 other place subject to their jurisdiction.”
When slavery was abolished there were many ways it could be worked around by increasing what was a crime for black people. The most glaring was the death penalty. There was only one crime that would send a white man to death row – Murder. Not so for the black man. There were dozens of crimes that would get him hanged. When we look at our prisons today and see the percentage of white vs black not much has changed.
A compilation of newspaper articles of glaring racial discrimination startingin 1961, which still exists today in the form of “white privilege”. An interesting read by the Equal Justice Initiative – A History of Racial Injustice – http://racialinjustice.eji.org
“On Sept 15, 1963, the bomb that killed four girls at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala, showed America just how far we had to go to fulfill the promise of justice and equality for all, even a century after the 13th amendment ended slavery. Half a century after the bombing, the struggle is not over, in part because language in that same amendment still undermines the equal humanity of more than 7 million Americans who have been convicted of a crime
Ratified at the end of the Civil War, the amendment abolished slavery with one critical exception: Slavery and involuntary servitude actually remain lawful “as a punishment for crime”. In other words, according to this punishment clause, with the wrong controlled substance in your trunk, there is nothing in the 13th amendment to ensure you won’t be considered a slave of the state. The language was ambiguous enough to be grossly abused. Son the clause was being used to reinstate slavery under another guise.
In 1866, just a year after the Civil War, a black man convicted of theft in Maryland was advertised for sale in the newspaper as punishment. The word “vagrancy” was code for being young, black and unemployed -could yield similar results.
Decades later famed abolitionist Frederick Douglas described how the widespread “convict lease system” exploited the punishment clause “States claim to be too poor to maintain state convicts within prison walls, Hence the convicts are leased out to work for railway contractors, mining companies and those with LARGE FARMING PLANTATIONS.” These companies assume control of the convicts, work them as cheap labor and pay the states a handsome revenue for their labor. Nine-tenths of these convicts are negroes.” So many blacks were behind bars because law enforcement tended to target them.
Importantly, Supreme Court decisions ensured no one today is sentenced to actual “slavery” as a form of capital punishment but Douglass’ critique still rings true. Black men are incarcerated six times the rate of white men, thanks in part to uneven enforcement and sentencing in the “war on drugs”. While drug use rates vary little among the races, people of color stand a much better chance of being searched, prosecuted and convicted than whites and government studies have shown they serve longer sentences.”
Whenever corporations have taken over any institution and it became “for profit”, quality went down and prices went up. Two other good examples of this is education and medical care. The prisons became an excellent source for free, or nearly free labor. There are so many American corporations as well as foreign corporations who benefit from this. There is a lot of talk on the internet about lowering the prison population. Everyone is jumping on the bandwagon. I don’t believe it will amount to much. All corporations have stockholders to appease. Arrests may go down but sentences will go up. Our government has 20 year contracts with the corporations that run the prisons. That contract demands 90-100% capacity or they will have to pay the corporations money per empty bed that could amount to millions of dollars.
Slavery never ended. It’s time we do something about it. It is an ugly side of America.
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