The 13th Amendment,passed in 1865, abolished slavery in America. Even though African Americanswere technically free underneath this amendment, they still were discriminatedagainst. Before congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, segregation was prevalentin the United States. Even though there were some laws in place that preventedsegregation, they were not actively enforced by the police. Civil rightsactivists attempted to end segregation and discrimination in America bystarting boycotts and sometimes starting riots.

The movement for racial equalityled to a lot of monumental events. Some of these events were the Montgomery BusBoycott, sit-ins and the famous March on Washington. This was a time of extremechange. The Civil rights act of 1964 was meant to end segregation anddiscrimination completely, but many years of anti-black violence still occurredafter the bill was passed. After watching the powerful documentary made by AvaDuVernay, 13th, shows thehistory of racial inequality in the prison system of the United States.This documentary wasnamed after the 13th Amendment for a reason.

This reason is to showthe fact that even though slavery was abolished, discrimination and some typesof segregation still exist in the United States. Ever since 1790, incarcerationhas been the center of the nation’s criminal justice system. Over the years,many alternatives to incarceration have been tried. Starting in the late 1980’s,our jails and prisons began experiencing overcrowding due to the three strikepolicy. This also brought about mandatory sentencing. Mandatory sentencing iswhere a judge has no choice to make ahigher or lower¬†sentence¬†dependingupon the context of the crime. This ends up putting people in jail for veryminor offenses that have never done anything criminal in the past.

Mandatory sentencingshould be abolished and a new set of laws put in place. Mandatory sentencingdoes not constitute a fair judgement from the court system.The documentary shows the viewer how differentpresidents and candidates used different terminology to support segregation andmass incarceration of African Americans and Latinos. The media didn’t help atall either. The media would use strong words like, “beasts” and “monsters” whendescribing African Americans involved in crimes.Thedocumentary, 13th,explains that the real problem with the prison system in America is mass incarceration.Prisons make a reoccurring cycleof crime and violence. Alternatives to incarceration effectively prevent thiscycle from occurring.

These projects give local courthouses a broad range ofcorrectional options for offenders under their jurisdiction. The generalobjectives of these programs are to fit the appropriate punishment with thecrime depending on the context around the criminal act. This program allowsthe guilty party to have a second chance in the community. Thereare numerous programs available as a different option to incarceration. Probationis the most common option used for first time offenders. Apart from reportingto their probation officers, offenders may have certain criteria they need tomeet as a condition of probation. Some of these requirements may be going to ajob, attending college or high school, or doing required community servicehours. If they no longer meet the conditions required, they might be sent tojail.

Anothertypically used alternative is house arrest. This restricts a person to his orher house for a predetermined period of time. In most house arrest cases,offenders are allowed to leave their homes only for jobs, doctor appointments, schooling,or required community service. There are three versions of housearrest. The first is curfew which makes the person with house arrest to be attheir house during certain hours of the day/night. The second version is homedetention.

This requires offenders to stay at home at all times except foremployment or education. This program is usually assisted with ankle/wristbracelet tracking. The final level is home incarceration. This applicationrequires offenders to stay at domestic at all times, with very few exceptions likereligious activities or medical appointments. 13th showsfootage from the Civil Rights Movement. In the early 1960’s, African Americansheld protests in the form of sit-ins the most famous being the GreensboroSit-ins.

On February 1, 1960, four North Carolina Agricultural and TechnicalCollege students walked into the F.W Woolworth store. The students sat down atthe lunch counter. They continued sitting at the counter until the store closedeven though they were refused service. Five days later, there over threehundred protestors joined the four students at the store. Because of the largenumber of protestors, the police came and forty-five students were arrested fortrespassing.

The students became so infuriated that they boycotted lunchcounters causing sales to drop by a third. Six months after these events, thefour students were finally able to eat at Woolworth’s lunch counter. There are manyalternative programs in place to assist ease the problem of overcrowding inprisons and jails. 13th thedocumentary sent a very powerful message to the viewers.

Even in post CivilRights days, discrimination and segregation still exists even though it is donedifferently. Although nothing is one hundred percent effective in diminishingour nation’s crime rate, these programs are an excellent way to preventovercrowding in correctional facilities.


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