The U.S Prison System Operates as new Jim Crow laws, black Americans were relegated to a subordinate status for decades. Not only does the prison system unjustly incarcerate and further marginalize minority groups, it subjects prisoners to a modern day system of slavery. One of the many underlying factors of why the majority of the incarcerated are Black Americans is due to the corruption in the prisons. Further encouraging stereotypes, enhancing racial inequality there for hindering the progress of black Americans, who have been unjustly set back only slightly progressing with each generation. The United States of America has the highest incarceration rate in the world with over two million people incarcerated. Convicts serving their sentence are subjected to forced manual labor, this manual labor mostly consists of manufacturing and supplying various products. In addition to participating in forced manual labor Prisoners will earn the bare minimum most commonly only a few pennies per hour, and punishment is a consequence upon refusal to work. The practice of forced labor in prisons can be seen as immoral and unjust or fair and deserving but the fact is that our prison system is unbearably discriminating and biased. Many prisoners who are subjected to this “new Jim Crow system” are unjustly placed there and are serving a sentence they did not deserve.
Following the civil war, the 13th amendment was passed putting an end to slavery. The 13th amendment 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”. However there is a clause in this document. This clause allows a subtle reconstruction of slavery. This allowed for prisoner’s to be forced into performing manual labor as a punishment. This form of labor would be seen as justifiable because its a “reasonable” punishment because it has been manufacturing and supplying the nation thus paying debt to society for their “crimes” . The vast majority of whites had a common belief that black Americans were too lazy to work, this stereotype prompted the government to pass the black codes which was essentially a system of white control. These codes were designed to restrict the activity of the freed blacks and to ensure their vulnerability. Especially pertaining to their employment, which helped in the continuation of the exploitation the black community endured. All freedmen were required to be employed with consequences if the requirement was not accomplished. W.E.B. Du Bois stated, “The codes spoke for themselves… No opened minded student can read them without being convinced they meant nothing more nor less than slavery.”
Small misdemeanors and even small incidents would be classified as a prosecutable crime. A black American could face severe disproportional punishments to that of a white American for the exact same crime.
All freedmen were required to be employed and those who weren’t would face negative consequences. The black codes failed to acknowledge the black community as equals in society. Under Jim Crow laws, black Americans were demoted to a subordinate status for decades. They were required to pass literacy that had impossible questions, making it extremely hard for black Americans to gain the right to vote. This test was designed to prevent blacks from serving on juries. A large percentage of the American people had a mentality that nurtured narcissism furthermore encouraging the unfair judgment emphasizing the view that freed slaves were inferior to the rest of the world. Although throughout history there has been many achievements in regards to the progression of social equality. Thousands of black Americans who are arrested have to encounter the difficulty of bail and court fees. Many of the incarcerated black Americans come from the lower class, poor families who could not afford to pay bail nor the court related fees. The judicial system has failed the black community. Even though convict leasing eventually came to an end, Michelle Alexander states that ” The criminal justice system was strategically employed to force African-Americans back into a system of extreme repression and control, a tactic that would continue to prove successful for generations to come.” During this time as well Jim Crow was thriving and the idea of race inferiority remained. For another 100 years black people were segregated, denied the right to vote, and stripped of their dignity. Nevertheless, The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ’60s helped to end legal racial segregation, but racial bias persevered.
Currently an extraordinary percentage of the African American community is warehoused in prisons, denied basic civil, human rights including the right to vote; the right to serve on juries; and the right to be free of legal discrimination in employment, housing, access to education and public assistance. Today, it is no longer socially permissible to use race explicitly as a justification for discrimination, exclusion, and social contempt. Once labeled a felon, even for a minor crime, the old forms of discrimination are suddenly legal again. Alexander shows that, by targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness. We have yet to discover an approach or solution to the complex problems that further stimulate the already impeding problem of our discriminatory institutions that has existed for centuries. The scale of equality is tilted discriminatorily