Mass Incarceration as the Modern Day Slavery

The media source I chose to watch was a documentary called 13th. This film shows the history starting from 1865 when slavery was abolished. It shows the connection of race, justice, and mass incarceration in the United States. This documentary shows that mass incarceration is an extension of slavery. The film gave insight on how poorly African Americans have been treated throughout the years and it hasn’t gotten better. It showed the daily struggles of African Americans from slavery, lynching, segregation, and more. It also discussed how life truly was after the Civil War. It was very eye opening to me because it truly gave an understanding on how unfair and corrupt our criminal justice system is.

A key point discussed in the documentary was Jim Crow laws. As we have discussed in the readings, Jim Crow laws legalized racial segregation. The film showed the horrific times of segregation and how black people were not allowed education, beaches, on busses, and more. I could tell that they were fighting for their freedom like African Americans still are to this day. As the book, Policing the Black Man, mentions, “Black people in this nation should be afforded the same protection, safety, and opportunity to thrive as anyone else. But, alas, that won’t happen until we confront our history and commit to engaging the past that continues to haunt us,” (Davis 2018). This quote has stuck to me because it shows that even after watching the documentary, African Americans still don’t have the justice they deserve and the protection like every American should have. I also believe this quote is true because in order for there to be justice, we need to be discussing the horrific times that happened in our past in order to realize that everyone deserves equal no matter what the color of your skin is or what ethnicity you are.

Another key idea presented in this documentary was the mass incarceration in the United States. It discussed how prisons don’t want to drop people, and how the prisons run off an economic model. They showed the criminal justice system talking about taking people out of prisons, and putting them on parole with a GPS tracking device. Like mentioned in the documentary though, these people are still making a profit from the GPS tracking device and colored people are still being locked up on constant surveillance with no freedom in their own communities. The mass incarceration in America is unreal. NAACP states in their statistics, “Today, the United States makes up about 5% of the world’s population and has 21% of the world’s prisoners,” (NAACP). This biggest problem is that African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites.

African Americans being incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites has a big connection from the war on drugs. As discussed in class, national data on use of drugs suggest whites are more likely than either African Americans or Hispanics to have ever used a variety of drugs, yet state prosecutors are more likely to refer racial minorities to the federal system for prosecution for sale of crack cocaine and sentences were much harsher under federal law for them. This takes me back to the incident with Clarence Aaron in our reading, Policing the Black Man. Aaron was a black college student who had no criminal record and was present for the sale of cocaine and was paid by the dealer. Aaron was testified in court and he was sentenced to three terms of life imprisonment in federal prison. Luckily enough, Aaron received a sentence communication from President Obama after the twenty years in prison he had already served. This documentary related to Aaron’s situation in our reading in many ways. It showed how unequal blacks are treated when it comes to the war on drugs. It also showed how harsh their punishments are compared to whites. As the documentary described it as whites just getting a “slap on the wrist” when it comes to getting in trouble with drugs.

In conclusion, this film was very eye opening. I would recommend it not only for the insight on the history that is discussed in the film, but for a realization on mass incarceration and African Americans daily lives in the world and in prisons. Not only has this been happening for years, but it’s still happening in today’s society. This documentary made me realize how we as a society need to work together and create a better equalization in the world for all races.






















“Criminal Justice Fact Sheet.” NAACP,

Davis, Angela J. Policing the Black Man; Arrest, Prosecution, and Imprisonment. Vintage

Books, a Division of Penguin Random House LLC, 2018.

DuVernay, Ava, director. 13th. Netflix Official Site, 7 Oct. 2016,

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