The 13th Amendment, passed in 1865, abolished slavery in America. Even though African Americans were technically free underneath this amendment, they still were discriminated against. Before congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, segregation was prevalent in the United States. Even though there were some laws in place that prevented segregation, they were not actively enforced by the police. Civil rights activists attempted to end segregation and discrimination in America by starting boycotts and sometimes starting riots. The movement for racial equality led to a lot of monumental events. Some of these events were the Montgomery Bus Boycott, sit-ins and the famous March on Washington. This was a time of extreme change. The Civil rights act of 1964 was meant to end segregation and discrimination completely, but many years of anti-black violence still occurred after the bill was passed. After watching the powerful documentary made by Ava DuVernay, 13th, shows the history of racial inequality in the prison system of the United States.
This documentary was named after the 13th Amendment for a reason. This reason is to show the fact that even though slavery was abolished, discrimination and some types of segregation still exist in the United States. Ever since 1790, incarceration has been the center of the nation’s criminal justice system. Over the years, many alternatives to incarceration have been tried. Starting in the late 1980’s, our jails and prisons began experiencing overcrowding due to the three strike policy. This also brought about mandatory sentencing. Mandatory sentencing is where a judge has no choice to make a higher or lower sentence depending upon the context of the crime. This ends up putting people in jail for very minor offenses that have never done anything criminal in the past. Mandatory sentencing should be abolished and a new set of laws put in place. Mandatory sentencing does not constitute a fair judgement from the court system.
The documentary shows the viewer how different presidents and candidates used different terminology to support segregation and mass incarceration of African Americans and Latinos. The media didn’t help at all either. The media would use strong words like, “beasts” and “monsters” when describing African Americans involved in crimes.
The documentary, 13th, explains that the real problem with the prison system in America is mass incarceration. Prisons make a reoccurring cycle of crime and violence. Alternatives to incarceration effectively prevent this cycle from occurring. These projects give local courthouses a broad range of correctional options for offenders under their jurisdiction. The general objectives of these programs are to fit the appropriate punishment with the crime depending on the context around the criminal act. This program allows the guilty party to have a second chance in the community.
There are numerous programs available as a different option to incarceration. Probation is the most common option used for first time offenders. Apart from reporting to their probation officers, offenders may have certain criteria they need to meet as a condition of probation. Some of these requirements may be going to a job, attending college or high school, or doing required community service hours. If they no longer meet the conditions required, they might be sent to jail.
Another typically used alternative is house arrest. This restricts a person to his or her house for a predetermined period of time. In most house arrest cases, offenders are allowed to leave their homes only for jobs, doctor appointments, schooling, or required community service. There are three versions of house arrest. The first is curfew which makes the person with house arrest to be at their house during certain hours of the day/night. The second version is home detention. This requires offenders to stay at home at all times except for employment or education. This program is usually assisted with ankle/wrist bracelet tracking. The last version is complete house arrest. This requires the person to stay at their house at all times.
13th shows footage from the Civil Rights Movement. In the early 1960’s, African Americans held protests in the form of sit-ins the most famous being the Greensboro Sit-ins. On February 1, 1960, four North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College students walked into the F.W Woolworth store. The students sat down at the lunch counter. They continued sitting at the counter until the store closed even though they were refused service. Five days later, there over three hundred protestors joined the four students at the store. Because of the large number of protestors, the police came and forty-five students were arrested for trespassing. The students became so infuriated that they boycotted lunch counters causing sales to drop by a third. Six months after these events, the four students were finally able to eat at Woolworth’s lunch counter.
There are many alternative programs in place to assist ease the problem of overcrowding in prisons and jails. 13th the documentary sent a very powerful message to the viewers. Even in post Civil Rights days, discrimination and segregation still exists even though it is done differently. Although nothing is one hundred percent effective in diminishing our nation’s crime rate, these programs are an excellent way to prevent overcrowding in correctional facilities.