About Tanniel

Criminology major and current junior at IUP. Home town is in Pittsburgh, PA.

Analyzing Mass Incarceration: The Birth of a New Nation Grounded in Racism

Reviewed Media Source: 13th
Producers: Ava Duvernay, Howard Barish, & Spencer Averick
Release Date: October 7, 2016
Link: httphttp://://www.avaduvernay.com/13th/
The documentary 13th dived into the underlying roots which have established a long road of unequal treatment towards African Americans in our society and our criminal justice system. In this documentary, there were multiple statistics shown with harsh and troubling numbers about the incarceration of black men, and incarceration in general in the United States. It opens by explaining how the United States is responsible for a quarter of incarcerated people in the world, but only holds 5% of the world’s population. This opens the documentary with a very eye-opening statistic, as it continues, the focus on African Americans reveals the disturbing incentives of some of the leaders in our country. Focusing on the 13th amendment which abolished slavery was the goal when describing the loophole made within this amendment. A loophole that allows for members of society to still participate in free labor, only if they are convicted of a crime. This became a new way to legally enslave a group of people without directly saying that was what was happening. This only allowed for a new version of the same problems to be used and would contribute to new ways to incarcerate people of color.
This documentary touches on numerous sources that reveal old American racism. For example, the movie “The Birth of a Nation” gives an insight into the myths established about people of color and their relationship to crime and rape. This was a major influence on the concept of black guilt completely and shows a piece of history that contributed to that ideology. Shocking statistics such as every 1/4 black serving time in prison at a point in their life is just another one of the surprising facts stated in this documentary. The speakers explained how slavery went from a business to a legal method of punishment for criminals. Which also provides large amounts of profit for private and state prisons. There are points in which the speakers address the fear that had been put into the public about African Americans, including how different presidents played a part in these fears. Policies that were focused on areas of low socioeconomic status such as mandatory sentences only generated more money for bail and incarceration firms. The information about ALECS’s participation in law-making was also addressed which brought forth concerns about laws made to benefit and bring money in for corporate members. This documentary explains the path in which African Americans have been set up to fail and how policies and ideologies put into place have only fueled and targeted these incentives.
This documentary ties into our class discussion on mass incarceration in many ways. It supports many topics we have discussed such as the presumption of guilt or systematic racism. It has only supported many of our views on these topics and has further explained the origin in which they began. When we talk about the presumption of guilt, this has been a problem built off the years of a narrative that only portrayed African Americans as dangerous criminals. The idea of white people being better than black people have shined through the continuous targeting of this race in our criminal justice system. The ideology of white supremacy survived the civil war and shows in ways that are evident today (Davis, 2017). Systematic racism was addressed multiple times throughout the documentary, and this helped to explain how even when labeled as free, African Americans have never been free in this country. Rather than building a new system our policies and laws only contributed to maintaining white privilege. The racial inequality produced by mass incarceration has been influenced by the levers of law and political control (Davis, 2017). Politicians and policymakers created a system that would come off as being tough on crime while it aids a new way to get free labor from these individuals. This is another form of slavery and we can see how much it impacted incarceration rates because it was not just about public safety. It was more about the potential profit, regardless of the inequality shown. According to Davis (2017), “The birth of the United States was defined by the willingness to exploit people of color despite vaunted norms, values, and principles of equality” (p. 6). We discussed how black people are set up to fail often because they are put back into the general public with the inability to participate in normal activities such as certain jobs, college education at times, or even the right to vote. This goes back to when slavery was first abolished, something I learned from this documentary. These slaves were also put out into a world they were unprepared for because of years of being a second-class citizen to white people. These same practices can be seen in our system today because without examining the destruction that has been done, they are only set out to live a fate that ultimately has been chosen for them. This documentary brought forth connections of different topics we discussed, it helped to inform people of a criminal justice system and government which has continued to benefit from the oppression of African Americans. The publics’ beliefs about how the U.S has triumphed from racially pernicious practices, aids the racial status quo and reflects a natural ordering rather than a structured hierarchy. (Wacquant, 2002).
I personally watched this documentary when it first was released, and it unleashed a lot of feelings and questions for me. I was unaware of how much racism impacted the incarceration of African Americans. I knew the basics, but I did not know how deep it was and how much of a role our law and policymakers played. I believe that my classmates should watch this because it goes into the depth of the footprint racism has had on our criminal justice system and the laws that have been established. The summary I gave doesn’t even compare to the amount of information and theories addressed in this documentary. To fully understand how we got to the place we are now with mass incarceration, I believe this is the best documentary to truly explain that. Diving into the roots of this country is the only way to understand what steps led us here.

Davis, A. J. (Ed.) (2017). Policing the Black man: Arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment. Vintage.
Wacquant, L. (2002). From slavery to mass incarceration. New Left Review, 13.

Perception of Immmigrants and Crime: The Reality Check

Reviewed Media Source: Maria Full of Grace
Produced: Paul S. Mezey
Air Date: August 6, 2004
This movie helps us as a society understand the perceptions that media may display about immigrants; often these are the perceptions individuals use to determine their opinion about immigrants. The movie begins by showing us the life of a young seventeen-year-old girl, Maria Alvarez, living in Columbia. We learn quickly that she has a very difficult and stressful life to be as young as she is. The responsibility of providing financial assistance for her family gives her the important responsibility of taking care of her family. She works hard to provide for her family, often dealing with sweatshop like conditions while working. It doesn’t help that she also has a troubled love life with her boyfriend, she quickly learns that she has become pregnant. She quits her job and travels to Bogota, the capital of Columbia. She has intentions of finding a better job when she leaves, but little does she know her life is about to change. She meets a man who gives her a proposition to become a drug mule, meaning she will have to swallow and carry drugs into the United States. She accepts because she needs the money to support her family. Her pregnancy also becomes a valuable tool to avoid many of the airport’s extensive security checks.
It becomes very intense as we watch her swallow these large bags of cocaine to smuggle. As she enters the airport and takes her flight it is apparent that she is afraid and concerned for her life. She is also accompanied by other women who are also drug mules. When they reach the United States, she and the other women go to a hotel where the drug dealers wait for them to pass the pallets of drugs. One woman even dies after a bag busted inside of her. The dealers panic and cut her open to retrieve the remaining drugs before escaping. Maria and the other women begin to sell the rest of the drugs left behind to send the dead women home. After they received enough money the women had intentions of going back to Columbia permanently, but Maria decides that she will continue her life here in the United States instead.
This movie gives us an example of how immigrants are portrayed often, and that is for their relationship to crime. These narratives have shifted to images linking immigrants and immigration to crime ( Bosworth & Guild, 2008). As these depictions continue to influence individuals’ opinions about immigrants it also helps to fuel the criminalization of immigration, otherwise known as crimmigration. If there is a rising concern throughout the country that immigrants will participate in criminal behaviors, it will only be a supporting factor in targeting immigrants. Both the general public and policymakers have often seen immigration and crime as inextricably connected (Bucerius, 2011). We have even been presented with new information that insists that immigrants usually are not very active in crime, but this does not always persuade a change of heart. It was even found that immigrants are less likely to be convicted of serious crimes than native-born (Ewing, 2015). The perception that immigrants are criminals can lead to members of society being very understanding as to why increasing numbers of immigrants are being deported or detained. More currently, there are about 200 detention centers across the country (Gruberg, 2015). As the government continues to focus on limiting immigrants and immigration, they constantly push the narrative that immigrants will always have involvement in the crime in our country. Some of the most powerful leaders of our country have given their opinions about immigrants and crime, usually in a negative way. This can have a major impact on what society will begin to believe as well. The data collected from the General Social Survey indicated that about three-quarters of Americans believe that a rise in immigrant numbers causes higher crime rates (Rumbaut & Ewing, 2009). Although we do see the constant misrepresentation of immigrants, in some instances there can be some truth. We can see a relationship with immigrants and crime when analyzing their role in drug trafficking, which the movie gave us an example of. It was found that when it came to importing heroin, Columbian groups often dominate this high-level trafficking (Paoli & Reuter, 2008). This does not mean though that all immigrants are inevitably going to take part in criminal behaviors. There will continue to be positive and negative opinions of immigrants in our media, but the goal should be to inform individuals of real statistics, with the hope it can outweigh their perceived idea.
I believe that this movie gives us a good representation of how immigrants are portrayed in America. It also shows how difficult life can be for some of these immigrants, they often come here just looking for a place to start over. Although Maria was participating in the importation of illegal drugs it was hard not to have some sympathy because of her background. I think that sometimes this sympathy is why we see some support in favor of immigrants. This could even have a link to sanctuary cities potentially. There are individuals like me who believe that we need to hear their stories sometimes and not judge them based on what the media tells us about. The way immigrants are treated at times is just morally wrong and giving them a place to feel safe is important. I would recommend this movie to my classmates because it is very powerful. It allows us to see that connection between immigrants and crime, while also giving us insight into the stressful lives these immigrants often live before migrating.

Bosworth, M., & Guild, M. (2008). Governing through migration control: Security & citizenship in Britain. British Journal of Criminology, 48, 703-719.
Bucerius, S. M. (2011). Immigrants and crime. The Oxford Handbook of Crime and Criminal Justice, 385-419.
Ewing, W., Martinez, D.E., & Rumbaut, R. G. (2015). The Criminalization of Immigration in the United States. Washington.
Greberg, S. (2015). How for-profit companies are driving immigration detention policies. Center for American Progress.
Paoli, L., & Reuter, P. (2008). Drug trafficking and ethnic minorities in Western Europe. European Journal of Criminology, 5(1), 13-37.
Rumbaut, R. G., & Ewing, W. A. (2007). The myth of immigrant criminality and the paradox of assimilation: Incarceration rates among native and foreign-born men. Policy Center, American Immigration Law Foundation.