The emancipation proclamation of 1863 was supposed to be the end of slavery in America; however, it was not until 1865 that Congress passed the 13th amendment of the United States constitution. According to National Archives, it states that “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”. While this was supposed to bring forth the end of slavery, it didn’t.
The prison industrial complex is the privatization of prisons in order to gain profit off of the mass number of incarcerated people. The loophole in the 13th amendment is that forced labour is no longer permitted “except as a punishment”, which means that as long as someone, usually minorities, are deemed criminals, one can profit off of their labor.
The term “War on Drugs” was coined by former President Richard Nixon in 1971 which was seen as more of a criminal matter rather than a health matter. Not only was it a reason to put more people in prison for petty crimes, but a Nixon aide was also recorded admitted that the war on drugs targeted black and anti-war people. According to CNN, it was revealed that he stated, “by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities”.
However, things get worse under President Reagan, when he created a hysteria over crack cocaine and had it associated specifically with black neighborhoods. In his first term, he also signed the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, which also expended the sentencing towards possession of cannabis. Therefore, in this period of time we have police specifically targeting black communities and turning petty drug abuses into major criminal offences. Not to mention that a large number of white people were also using drugs such as marijuana and cocaine and not getting the same penalties. This just proves that this “War on Drugs” was a way to criminalize black people and have them kept in prisons for super long periods of time.
This destruction continues under Clinton’s crime bill which ensures that black people who committed petty crimes and suffered from drug abuse were overly punished for their crimes while the rich who committed those same crimes were left unscathed. He brought forth policies such as mandatory minimums, and the three strikes you’re out bill which states that if someone is convicted of three serious felonies, they are imprisoned for life. The problem, specifically with the Three Strikes Bill is that this led to a complete back up in criminal case trials which therefore led to plea deals, specifically for black offenders. This meant that a lot of black people didn’t even get to have their date in court because it would take too many resources and are therefore told that if they admit to a crime they didn’t do or not fight the petty crime they were accused of their sentencing will be reduced. They could fight it in court. However, if they lost, the number of years they were locked away would go up which in turn, persuaded a lot of people to take the plea deals. These series of events led to the United States being the country that has the most incarcerated people with 2.12 million people in prison.
With this mass incarceration, we now have these big companies who exploit these prisoners for their labour. Companies such as Victoria Secret, that have prisoners make their clothing for next to nothing while they profit off of the expensive prices, they sell them for.
This is even a problem that affects us in our own country with Bell Canada charging over thirty dollars for a twenty-minute phone call when multiple incarcerated people cannot even afford that.
It is in the police force’s history to specifically target black communities in order to raise incarnation numbers and only generate more workers that can be exploited by big companies who have no intention to pay fair wages. This has been around for a long time and is not going anywhere with many mainstream “icons” supporting these very ideals. Hillary Clinton stood by her husband when he passed the crime bill and even went as far as to generate fear of the black communities, specifically of black men, by labelling them “super predators”. Before Kamala Harris was Vice President, as the Attorney General of California, she kept multiple people in prison, past their release date just so they can be used for unfair labor. The prison industrial complex was created by the government to benefit major corporations as well terrorize black communities and it is enforced by the police. With the Black Lives Matter movement currently having an impactful and important place in history, it’s important to educate yourself about matters that hurt their communities and do not have the privilege of being filmed for the world to see, many are still suffering in silence.
By Isabella Del Grosso