The 13th Amendment

The United States is home to 5% of the world’s population but 25% of the world’s population is of prisoners. That means that there is a one to four ration among human beings with their hands-on bars, shackled, are locked up here, in the land of the free. In 1972, we had a prison population of 300,000 today, we have a prison population of 2.3 million. The United States now has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. History is not just stuff that happens by accident. We are the products of the history that our ancestors chose, if we’re white. If we are black, we are products of the history that our ancestors most likely did not choose. The 13th Amendment of the constitution makes it unconstitutional for someone to be held as a slave, it grants freedom to all Americans. There are exceptions, including criminals there is a clause or loophole and if you have that in the structure, in this constitutional language then it’s there to be used as a tool for whichever purposes one wants to use it.

When we think about slavery, it was an economic system and the demise of slavery at the end of the Civil War left the Southern economy in tatters. So, this represented a huge question, there are four million people who property was formerly, and they were formerly kind of the integral part of the economic production system in the South, and now those people are free. So, what do we do with these people? How do we rebuild their economy? The 13th Amendment loophole was immediately exploited. After the Civil War, African Americans were arrested in masses, it was out nation’s first prison boom. You were basically a slave again, the 13th Amendment says, “except for criminals, everybody else is free.” Now if you are criminalized that doesn’t apply to you. They were arrested for extremely minor crimes like loitering or vagrancy and they had to provide labor to rebuild the economy of the South after the Civil War. Laws began to pass that regulated African Americans to a permanent second-class status, the fear of crime is central to all of us. Civil rights activists began to be portrayed in the media and among many politicians as criminals. People who are deliberately violating the law, segregation laws that existed in the South. “For years now I have heard the work “wait.” It rings in the ear of every African American with piercing familiarity. This wait has almost meant never, justice too long delayed is justice denied” (King). When you look at the history of black people’s various struggles in this country, the connecting theme is the attempt to be understood as full, complicated human beings. They are something other than this visceral image of criminality and menace and threat to which people associated them as. The Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act said, “Finally, we admit it although slavery ended in December 1865, we took away these people’s rights, and now we’re going to fix it.” For the first time there is a promise go equal justice becomes at least a possibility.

Once Nixon became president crime and people being put in prison peaked with the thought of a “war of drugs.” This utterance gave birth to this era today, where we decided to deal with drug addictions and drug dependency as a crime issue rather than a health issue. There are hundreds and thousands of people who were and are still being sent to jails and prisons for a simple possession of marijuana, for low-level offenses. This thing called “law and order” becomes an integral to something that comes to be known as the Southern strategy. Nixon recruited Southern whites formerly staunch Democrats into the Republican fold. Ronald Regan was determined to out that this drug of war is something that is so serious in this world when it wasn’t a huge issue as he was portraying it to be. His wife came up with the “just say no” stated that it has helped many of our young people to say no to drugs, but has it? In the 1980s a new drug was placed into our world called crack cocaine and if you were black and you were caught with cocaine on you, you are getting sent to prison for the rest of your life. If you were white and caught with it on you, you were just getting a slap on the wrist. A scythe went through our black communities, cutting off men from their families, a huge chunk of them just disappearing into our prisons and for a very long time.

When taking a look at our long history of discrimination, many can say it hasn’t changed today. The fear has grown and stuck to people as they grow up including interactions with police officers and black males. The history is there and it is repeating itself.

“It’s easy to get there, but it’s hard as hell to get out of there.”

There is a major crisis along the United States of an over-populations within prisons and jails. America has more people incarcerated than any other nation in the world with over two million inmates a year. Rikers Island is one of the prisons that has an issues of mass incarceration with an 80% of victims in there who have not even been committed of a crime. These people are being held awaiting a trial, sentencing or dismissal. An average stay in jail is less than two months, but some in Rikers have waited two to six years. On a normal day, there are more than 7,500 people held in New York City’s Riker Island Jail. Which is known for its culture of violence. It was ranked among a survey of ten other prisons as being one of the most dangerous prisons within America. What is done to the people within is done in our name and with our tax dollars. This is about the stories who had made it across the bridge to the jail and made it back alive.

There are about 40% of detainees at Rikers that are diagnosed with a mental illness and do not receive the proper care that the need in the jail or prison. One incident that occurred was instead of helping the man who need help, the officer pulled down his pants and peed on him instead. As most know, in jails and prisons it is mainly gang affiliated. The setup called the “program” where two to three, four inmates ran the “house.” The program was defined as “you’re going to do what we tell you to do when we tell you to do it. Or we are going to beat your ass and you’re out of here.” There was a chain of commands; the people who reign the housing being the two or one top people that is in control of everything that goes on inside. The response to violence in prisons and jails is more violence. Many of the stories told by the ones who had made it out alive came from a background violence, abandonment from their parents, getting abused growing up physically and emotionally, in and out of foster care, etc. Many incidents that happened within the prison no one reported it because Henning notes(2018). “many black boys would rather settle disputes on their own than initiate contact with the police, and norms against snitching are so strong within some black communities that black boys often refuse to commit crimes” Many officers in Rikers were giving drugs to inmates, making bets on particular fights, and raping inmates. They are no better than the people within the jail because they are committing the same crimes as those inside the jail but they are not getting caught or the charges as they should get.

This is a documentary that everyone should watch so they understand what truly goes on behind the bars within a prison and jail. All that the people know in there is violence, it is worse than being on the streets. It is mainly gang related the second you get in there. Jail is not any better than being on the streets, black individuals get treated the same way or ten times worse in prison than they would outside of jail.


The documentary that I chose to watch was “Under the Bridge: The Criminalization of Homelessness.” Some of the key points in the document were  that many of the homeless believed it was hard to get jobs, housing, or any federal benefits with a criminal background. Issues have sparked that relate to discrimination and inequality. In Indianapolis, Indiana the city never took a role on helping the homeless, there weren’t many shelters for them to go to. There was one that was called, Wheeler Mission Ministries where many of the homeless had stated it was worse than prison and would rather be in jail than in there. To be accepted you had to show an ID, and if you did not have an ID, they would personally fingerprint you to get an identification and give them sources on where you can get a valid ID. They were limited to 10 dasy a month; but were able to stay more if they met their criteria which they had said was fairly easy by passing a drug test and proving they are looking for work. Homeless couples were not able to stay there, even if they were pregnant or had a child unless they were married. Media began to play a role at the Davison street camp when the government and police were trying to remove the homeless. If they did not move out in a week they would be getting charged with a federal offense and arrested.

This documentary presented a contradiction because people do not understand why they are homeless or why some choose to be homeless. Many are unable to get a house, or a job because they were previously convicted and struggle to meet the standard criteria to get a well-paying job and housing. The media also showed this because they were reporting on the camp in a negative manner to the world when there are many positives within the community. Maurice, who was the one in charge of this camp got many interviews from reporters, but it comments hardly ever made it on air. The media also made reports of how businesses have made complaints about rats, rodents, trash, and debris and people using the area as an open toilet and how there is sympathy and relief about the move. When Joel Miller was interviewed, he said, “I would like to know more about Davison Street, but my guess is that there is a donor who has complained about the area and they won’t want to invest until the problem is solved.” Tina Lagrotte, who is the owner of Milano Inn Restaurant owns many properties along the railroad side.” When the question was asked if they were wanting to build on the property where the camp is, investors were very concerned about the camp and are looking to build an apartment property there.

The homeless are a major concern all over the world today, and many people do not have a solution for it, nor do they want to take the steps to help people get off the streets and help them start a life. I have come to the realization that there are people who do prefer being homeless in order to be a positive figure to those who are. When people look at the homeless, they tend to just look the other way. There are also a lot of homeless people who suffer with drug addiction, bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia and don’t have the sources to get the help that they need simply because they do not have the sources to do so. Yes, there are shelters but they come with many rules and regulations that many are unable to commit to.

People should watch this documentary because it gives you an inside look at a community where they call each other a family. They are the only people that they have, the only ones that understand. Most did not choose to be homeless, but there was no other alternative for them because none was given to them. It will give you the thought, “why are we spending millions of dollars on nonsense when there are people struggling to survive on the streets.”

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