School to Prison Pipeline

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. 

Retrieved from

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. 

  1. Davis, Policing the Black Man: Arrest, Prosecution, and Imprisonment (pp. 31-56). Vintage Books.


 The media source that I analyzed is Border Hustle: Private prisons, smugglers and cartels cash in on migrants by The Texas Tribune and TIME (2019). This documentary is about a man named Carlos who crosses the border with his six-year-old daughter Heyli. This journey was hard because Carlos and Heyli were from Honduras, so they must first travel to get to the border through dangerous terrain, drug cartels, and the coyotes (people who smuggle immigrants). Once they reached the border and pawned their house in order to pay the cartel for crossing, they were finally across the U.S. border. After crossing, they surrendered to Border Patrol agents and were separated into different immigration camps. These immigration camps were over one thousand miles apart and made it impossible to keep in contact. Corporations like CCA have branches of private prisons that profit off of these migrant families. Another corporation that profits from imprisoning immigrants is The Geo Group Inc, and as stated in the reading from tuesday “[t]hese companies have multi‐year, multi‐million dollar contracts with ICE and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), creating a profiting system from immigrant detention (Department of Homeland Security, 2016)” (Menjívar, Cervantes, & Alvord, 2017). 

The key points presented in this documentary is that the United States treats immigrants as if they are criminals and large corporations profit from this criminalization. This relates heavily to discrimination due to the stereotype that immigrants are drug smugglers or criminals in America. Instead of providing immigrants the proper tools in order to become citizens, we treat them as the enemy. The United States current administration has targeted sanctuary cities by cutting funding to not only the the immigrants, but the American citizens until they “cooperate with federal government in the enforcement of immigration laws” (Martínez, Martínez‐Schuldt, & Cantor, 2017). This creates the insinuation that criminalizing immigrants is rewarded financially, while pardoning and helping immigrants is punished financially. Mass incarceration has affected minorities at an alarming rate and has damaged their community financially, psychologically, and physically given the neglect within these prison systems. 

This documentary exposed the heartbreak that families go through within the criminalized immigration system. It goes along with what we have talked about in class in regards to how difficult the system is on the immigrants in it and how the U.S. will go as far as harming their own citizens in order to receive compliance on the immigration laws. What I had not understood was how difficult the journey could be to even make it to the border. Immigrants will lose everything they have in order to cross the border only to be treated as criminals and be separated from their families whenever they do. I would recommend others watch this documentary in order to fully understand the effects that this system has on the people within them as well as how much it takes for immigrants to get here.