The media that I chose to analyze for this blog post is the documentary “13th” by Ava DuVernay. This documentary points out many issues within the criminal justice system that lead to mass incarceration of minorities, specifically black men. It begins talking about the War on Drugs during the Reagan era. This “war on drugs” was really more of an excuse to persecute black men due to a hidden portion of the 13th Amendment. Many people are unaware of this, however, there is a clause within the 13th Amendment that states slavery is illegal UNLESS you have been committed of a crime.
This documentary unpacks the hidden clause and how it has impacted mass incarceration. People being marginalized for crime is not something new. Previously in this course we learned that the arrest rates for African Americans are much larger than that of Caucasians for drugs and, sadly, not because there is that big of a difference in using. Plus, housing and food stamps can be extremely difficult for drug abusers to get after a drug related crime. It is talked about how difficult it is for people impacted by mass incarceration to reintegrate into society because they are no longer able to get jobs that are above minimum wage. This makes it hard for these people to either stay rehabilitated or to stay on the path of rehabilitation. Not to mention that it sends them into a life of poverty and debt from plea bargains and court fees leading to recidivism.
The war on drugs was a big factor in marginalizing people of color. Many drug cases never even make trial, but instead are done through plea bargaining. This would mean that these possibly innocent people plea guilty because the likelihood of them being set free is minimal. “In 2010, a third of all black male high-school dropouts between the ages of 20 and 39 were imprisoned, compared with only 13 percent of their white peers.” (Coates, 2015) Mass incarceration has impacted minority families as well as their communities. With the imprisonment of a black man for drugs, there is a family that he is forced to leave behind. Leaving imbalance in communities is damaging to familial dynamics and feeds into poverty by forcing the families of those convicted to pay for the legal fees and wellbeing of their family members in prison.
Ava Duvernay & Jason Moran. (2016). 13TH. USA.
Coates, T. (2015). The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration. The Atlantic.
Stevenson, B. (2018). A presumption of guilt: The legacy of America’s history of racial
injustice. In A. J. Davis, Policing the Black Man: Arrest, Prosecution, and Imprisonment (pp. 3-20). Vintage Books.
Mauer, M. (2018). The endurance of racial disparity in the criminal justice system. In A.
- Davis, Policing the Black Man: Arrest, Prosecution, and Imprisonment (pp. 31-56). Vintage Books.