Historically, Black and Brown people have been especially affected by mass incarceration
A major demonstration is scheduled for the nation’s capital to protest “the new slavery” in America — the use of free labor in prisons.
The Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March is planned for Aug. 19, to challenge the rarely acknowledged exception clause in the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“We demand the 13th Amendment enslavement clause of the United States Constitution be amended to abolish legalized slavery in America,” wrote an advocate of Jailhouse Lawyers Speak in the No Shackles newsletter of the “iamWE Prison Advocacy Network,” one of the organizers of the march.
“We demand a congressional hearing on the 13th Amendment enslavement clause being recognized as in violation of international law, the general principles of human rights and its direct links to,” among others, private entities exploiting prison labor, private entities contracted to build and operate prisons and felony disenfranchisement laws.
Section 1 of the 13th Amendment reads: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as 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 13th Amendment has been linked to mass incarceration by some activists, and it inspired director Ava Duvernay’s documentary 13th.
“We must realize that the criminal justice system is not broken. It’s operating just as it was intended,” said Amani Sawari, editor of the No Shackles newsletter.
“It’s proven that the incarceration of a child is not a rehabilitative action…”
The article adds that private companies, such as banks, clothing manufacturers, food distributors and telephone networks, profit from low-wage prison labor, while overcharging prisoners for goods and services.
Historically, Black and Brown people have been especially affected by mass incarceration. But, with television series like Orange Is the New Black and Making a Murderer on Netflix, public awareness about the human rights issues of mass incarceration has increased.
Orange Is the New Black is based on an upper-middle-class White woman imprisoned for a high-profile drug crime. Making a Murderer is a story about a lower-class White man. The vast majority of the other characters inhabiting the prisons are people of color.
“We should all be afraid when a system has become so monstrous that it eats up everyone, men, women and children, for the pettiest of behaviors,” Sawari wrote. “It’s proven that the incarceration of a child is not a rehabilitative action. It only increases the likelihood of their future arrest.”
The United States has the highest incarceration rate of any industrialized country at 698 per 100,000 citizens, according to World Prison Population List: 11th Edition, Roy Walmsley.
“If you don’t see the problem with the reservation of slavery for punishment, then look at the lives of millions of families broken,” she added.
Convict leasing, Black Codes, Jim Crow, Nixon’s war on drugs and Bill Clinton’s 1994 crime bill represent the different transitions of criminalization throughout the generations, the advocates claim.
Organizers say the march will be a platform to call out a multitude of companies that profit from prison labor. These can range from big oil companies that use prison labor to clean up their spills to banks and financial entities that hold stocks in private prisons and detention centers.
For more information go to the Millions for Prisoners March Facebook page.