The Untold Story of Mass Incarceration

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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When we talk about mass incarceration, what’s the first thing that pops up into your mind? In our society today we have been misinformed about the reality of people being incarcerated. Sometimes being misinformed led for the prison system to take advantage of “convicts” but it’s all done legally. In order to have a discussion about it you have to have an understanding into the history and why people act the way they act and also understand where they are coming from.

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We as a whole have to see that our prison population is made up almost in its entirety from people of color, and the system is made up a certain way to remain that way but it’s inhumane. So let’s talk about it…

The Truth

In 1863, the emancipation proclamation was passed which it declared that all slaves were to be freed from their masters due to the civil war and it was only applied to to states that had seceded. When the proclamation was declared slaves weren’t freed as promised because America was still at war and slave masters wouldn’t tell the slaves but instead keep it from them (The Emancipation Proclamation,2018). Soon after the 13th amendment, 1865, came after and completely abolished slavery in the nation because the proclamation was not as successful. But when the 13th amendment was made, it had a loophole which still affects people today; which it stated “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. This meant that if you were punished for a crime and sentenced to jail or prison then you would serve time in a similar way of servitude (The Impact and Legacy of the Emancipation Proclamation, 2013). After the 13th amendment, most former slaves were working something similar to slavery, former slaves wanted to exercise their right to vote, among other things, in order to better themselves but white folks wanted to come up with an way to keep them from exercising their rights so they created Black Codes. Black Codes were where blacks were denied to exercise their civil rights that white men had and still keeps blacks in an inferior position in which they could be manipulated (Black Codes, 2010). Another way to keep blacks in an inferior way was creating Pig Laws which meant that if a black man stole an animal than he would be prosecuted and have a harsh sentence.  In 1868 the 14th amendment was passed and declared that former slaves would receive citizenship and granted “equal protection of the laws”. In the 14th amendment had something extra which was due process, due process is already stated in the 5th amendment The 15th amendment was also passed which allowed for black men to vote. When the amendment was passed it became a big deal for the black community but southern whites knew the impact that blacks had on the states so they created methods in order to keep them from voting or voting for who they wanted which meant some blacks didn’t exercise their 15th amendment right (15th amendment, 2009).

The government knew that there were gonna be loopholes in the 13th amendment which allowed some type of form of slavery which formed into something called Peonage. In 1867 peonage wasn’t allowed in America but during the Reconstruction era it had a rebirth that led into debt servitude which men had to pay off. Black men didn’t know the full extent of the law so they fell into peonage because their employers would pay them in advance which they had to pay off. But peonage was practiced more in the south because they would grab men with minor crimes but stacked with court fines and fees and used to work for employers but end up lost in how much they had to pay off (Slavery v. Peonage, 2010). Soon later came convict leasing which meant they leased convicts to local industrialists because the prisons wouldn’t really have to feed them or provide shelter which increased revenue for the prisons which they profited from in every state; but after Progressivism convict leasing came to an end which led to the birth of chain gangs which meant that a group of convicts would be chained together and forced to work on road construction, ditch digging, or farming. Chain gangs weren’t really seen as terrible because they were helping fix things that people were using everyday which the public didn’t mind.

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The Untold Story of Mass Incarceration. (2019, Dec 15). Retrieved from