13th – About how a loophole in the abolishment of American slavery blackfired

The 13th amendment to the American constitution forbids slavery. But it has one exception: criminals are allowed to be taken away their freedom. This documentary shows how the treatment of black people in the American history basically did not change. It merely moved from slavery, KKK lynchings, segregations to 2nd class citizens to mass incarcerations after the civil rights act. Where in 1970 there were 357 thousand people imprisoned, this figure grew to 513K in 1980, 759K in 1985, 1.179K in 1990, 2.000 K in 2000 and finally exploded to 2.306K in 2014. The documentary further shows how through different laws the prison population exploded: first the war on drugs in 1982. Then Bill Clinton introduced laws such as ‘3 strikes you’re out’, mandatory minimums and loss of parole in 1992. Next, this documentary sheds light on how the inmate prison system has become a billion dollar business. CCA, a private prison company, once made a 1.7 billion $ profit. The documentary discussed how the plea bargain system has effectively removed the basic right to go to court. The bail is effectively too high to pay for poor (black) Americans and without pleading bargain and with minimum sentencing a 3 year plea bargain can become 30 years in court. As a result 97% of all court cases never see trial.

‘The criminal system is a beast. It eats blacks and Hispanics for breakfast, lunch and dinner.’

The criminalization extends outside the prisons into daily life by means of so-called SB1070: a law which allows that everyone can be stopped and searched without any reason. Guess which group is mostly affected by this measure? It is heartbreaking to see the footages of how police brutality kill unarmed black men. Their families gave permission to show these painful images because the message needs to go out. But for what?

Although black culture has become mainstream and we have had a black president, effectively the lower class black people are segregated and criminalized today more than ever. Instead of addressing the issues of why black people have higher crime rates and drug abuse (bad social circumstances, low education, broken families?), they are treated as 2nd class people. First they were demonized, today they are criminalized.

USA needs to take a good look into the mirror and clean up its act and make up to its claim that it truly is the land of the free.

In the end this is a sobering and depressing documentary which sickened me. It required me to take a beer in order to drain the disgusting taste of the reality of the American Dream.

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