Slavery, Mass Incarceration, and the Prison Industrial Complex.


As much as many white people seem to believe, the US is not living in a post racial society and the mass incarceration of people of color is definitely one indicator of that fact. The 13th Amendment (passed at the beginning of 1865) may have technically been the abolition of slavery but the language included in the amendment means that there are still legal forms of slavery through incarceration and as punishment for a crime:

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

The Equal Justice Initiative created an illustrated video that narrates the details around the fact that mass incarceration is a direct descendant from slavery. (transcript)

Jezebel Delilah X wrote one article about a few reasons as to why the US police force is just an extension of slavery and white supremacy, covering the history of slavery and incarceration in the US and the proportions of prison populations. The US has one of the largest prison populations in the world and that populations disproportionately impacts people of color. The Prison Policy Initiative has several resources regarding this issue, including several graphs that highlight that incarceration is not an equal opportunity punishment.

Sophia Kerby wrote about ten of the most disturbing facts about racial inequality in the prison industrial complex and supports the fact that incarceration disproportionately impacts people of color. (There’s also a more recent article by Jamal Hagler with several facts about the criminal justice  system and people of color.)

And another way white supremacy works within prisons and incarceration? While white people have been found to be more likely to abuse drugs than black people, black people are significantly more likely to be incarcerated for drug crimes.

Matt Sledge brings that up in a piece about the drug war and mass incarceration and stated that:

Blacks make up 50 percent of the state and local prisoners incarcerated for drug crimes. Black kids are 10 times more likely to be arrested for drug crimes than white ones — even though white kids are more likely to abuse drugs.

There are plenty of big businesses and corporations that depend on prison labor and/or make money off of prisoners. Vicky Pelaez wrote about this issue, highlighting things like the history of prison labor in the US, private prisons, and how some corporations do in fact benefit from cheap prison labor. Other articles that highlight the corrupt relationship between corporations and prison labor include:

Finally, the prison industrial complex. Maisha Z Johnson wrote about the term, explaining that it was:

…a multi-billion dollar industry building massive wealth for corporations while incarcerating disenfranchised people in jails, prisons, juvenile detention centers, and immigration detention centers.

Johnson went on in that same article to write about the 3 reasons why prison injustice is a feminist issue but other resources about what the prison industrial complex is include: