The most insidious thing about the for profit prison system, and also the state and federal corrections systems that we have in this country is that it appears more and more that it is a concerted effort on the part of a few to nullify de facto out 13th and 15th Amendments.
It works like this: regardless of what the commissioners claim, it’s a known and established fact that law enforcement maintains monthly quotas on arrests and ticketing … enforced within the departments by discipline. So where do cops go to make an easy collar? They prey on the most vulnerable. They go to poor communities, primarily black and Latino, people who don’t really have the means for private defense counsel, and those who lack connections to elected officials. Combine that with insane legal fictions like “possession with intent to sell” based solely on an arbitrary quantity of a substance, and jacked up sentencing rules for non-violent crimes that should really only be noncriminal violations, and you have the recipe for the current situation in America:
1. The greatest percentage of national population incarcerated; and, 2. Such an incredible disproportion of black men in prison … so much so, that there are more black men incarcerated in 2017 than there were enslaved in 1861.
Now, what happens as a result?
The 13th Amendment, banning slavery and the indicia of slavery has a loophole. If someone has been convicted of a felony, they can be used as slave labor under the law.
And so, you have the incarcerated used by both public and private entities as slaves in the manufacturing industry … making everything from the furniture used in schools, police precinct houses, and other institutions, to garments, etc. if they get anything at all, it may be $1 or $2 dollars a day for their commissary. Yet, cities and states and private consumers pay market price for those goods … and someone is making a tremendous profit.
The 15th Amendment guaranteed former slaves, black people, the right to vote as full citizens of the United States.
And yet, this is undermined by the very same system. Just about every state has a law called, “Felony Disenfranchisement.” This means that if you have been convicted of a felony … the type of which gets you sent to one of those for-profit prisons or any state or federal prison, you lose the right to vote.
And herein is how the 15th Amendment is undermined: if you have a disproportionate amount of black men in prison on felony charges … not an insignificant amount because some cop had to fill his quota, or because of unnecessarily harsh sentencing rules … THEN the black population of America is disproportionately underrepresented in the electoral process due to convicted felons losing the right to vote.
THAT IS THE EPITOME OF INSTITUTIONAL RACISM.
It ensures white supremacy in governance.
This is our national shame.
This cannot go uncorrected, with the expectation that our country will survive. It eats away at our core proposition of EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW. It eats away at our collective soul. It exposes our racist hypocrisy to the world, and unless we change the system, we are all guilty.
©2017, A. A. Spett.
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