The 13th Amendment,
passed in 1865, abolished slavery in America. Even though African Americans
were technically free underneath this amendment, they still were discriminated
against. Before congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, segregation was prevalent
in the United States. Even though there were some laws in place that prevented
segregation, they were not actively enforced by the police. Civil rights
activists attempted to end segregation and discrimination in America by
starting boycotts and sometimes starting riots. The movement for racial equality
led to a lot of monumental events. Some of these events were the Montgomery Bus
Boycott, sit-ins and the famous March on Washington. This was a time of extreme
change. The Civil rights act of 1964 was meant to end segregation and
discrimination completely, but many years of anti-black violence still occurred
after the bill was passed. After watching the powerful documentary made by Ava
DuVernay, 13th, shows the
history of racial inequality in the prison system of the United States.

This documentary was
named after the 13th Amendment for a reason. This reason is to show
the fact that even though slavery was abolished, discrimination and some types
of segregation still exist in the United States. Ever since 1790, incarceration
has 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 strike
policy. This also brought about mandatory sentencing. Mandatory sentencing is
where a judge has no choice to make a
higher or lower sentence depending
upon the context of the crime. This ends up putting people in jail for very
minor offenses that have never done anything criminal in the past. Mandatory sentencing
should be abolished and a new set of laws put in place. Mandatory sentencing
does not constitute a fair judgement from the court system.

The documentary shows the viewer how different
presidents and candidates used different terminology to support segregation and
mass incarceration of African Americans and Latinos. The media didn’t help at
all either. The media would use strong words like, “beasts” and “monsters” when
describing African Americans involved in crimes.

The
documentary, 13th,
explains that the real problem with the prison system in America is mass incarceration.
Prisons make a reoccurring cycle
of crime and violence. Alternatives to incarceration effectively prevent this
cycle from occurring. These projects give local courthouses a broad range of
correctional options for offenders under their jurisdiction. The general
objectives of these programs are to fit the appropriate punishment with the
crime depending on the context around the criminal act. This program allows
the guilty party to have a second chance in the community.

There
are numerous programs available as a different option to incarceration. Probation
is the most common option used for first time offenders. Apart from reporting
to their probation officers, offenders may have certain criteria they need to
meet as a condition of probation. Some of these requirements may be going to a
job, attending college or high school, or doing required community service
hours. If they no longer meet the conditions required, they might be sent to
jail.

Another
typically used alternative is house arrest. This restricts a person to his or
her 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 house
arrest. The first is curfew which makes the person with house arrest to be at
their house during certain hours of the day/night. The second version is home
detention. This requires offenders to stay at home at all times except for
employment or education. This program is usually assisted with ankle/wrist
bracelet tracking. The final level is home incarceration. This application
requires offenders to stay at domestic at all times, with very few exceptions like
religious activities or medical appointments.

13th shows
footage from the Civil Rights Movement. In the early 1960’s, African Americans
held protests in the form of sit-ins the most famous being the Greensboro
Sit-ins. On February 1, 1960, four North Carolina Agricultural and Technical
College students walked into the F.W Woolworth store. The students sat down at
the lunch counter. They continued sitting at the counter until the store closed
even though they were refused service. Five days later, there over three
hundred protestors joined the four students at the store. Because of the large
number of protestors, the police came and forty-five students were arrested for
trespassing. The students became so infuriated that they boycotted lunch
counters causing sales to drop by a third. Six months after these events, the
four students were finally able to eat at Woolworth’s lunch counter.

There are many
alternative programs in place to assist ease the problem of overcrowding in
prisons and jails. 13th the
documentary sent a very powerful message to the viewers. Even in post Civil
Rights days, discrimination and segregation still exists even though it is done
differently. Although nothing is one hundred percent effective in diminishing
our nation’s crime rate, these programs are an excellent way to prevent
overcrowding in correctional facilities.