BY madison brown
The instatement of the thirteenth amendment in 1789, and more specifically the clause within it, into American policy brought about the abolishment of slavery while alternatively paving the way for generations of mass incarceration for those that had previously been enslaved. In the past two hundred years since the amendment was added, this clause has transformed into a corporate scheme backed by movements such as former President Richard Nixon’s “War on Drugs” with two million individuals in the United States alone being subject to the cruel conditions of these institutions. However, not all fifty states are staying silent to the trend of poor circumstances as California has progressed within prison reform by instating measures such as rehabilitation for those convicted as well as passing of progressive laws such as Proposition Fifty-Seven which allows those convicted of non-violent felonies and similar crimes to be considered for parole.
Within the late 20th century as drug use and free-spirited protests came as a result of an unconstrained amount of wars as well as the end of segregation, prisons began to overflow and a solution was quickly sought out. Major corporations were allowed to invest in these public prisons and turn them into private institutions funded by themselves. For the remaining public facilities, the corporations were employed to cover services such as medical care, inmate transportation and food servicing. While many saw this as an opportunity to capitalize on a struggling aspect of society, having these powerful individuals at the head of the prisons, in some cases such as food handling, made life for the prisoners worse. According to the American Public Health Association, “[Incarcerated] persons suffer a disproportionate number of outbreak-associated foodborne illnesses.” accounting for six percent of all foodborne illnesses in the country.
On the contrary, the establishment of prisons and other similar operations was centered around the removal of dangerous individuals from the public and treatment should be nowhere near being pampered. However, we are no longer in an age of disproportionate offenses, as according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, forty-six percent of all individuals imprisoned are solely due to drug offenses while a combination of homicide, assault and kidnapping only accounts for three percent of the total amount.In the same way, those convicted of terrible crimes are often sent to higher security prisons that have different protocols surrounding the treatment of prisoners. For the highly populated states such as New York, California and Florida, maintaining a healthy alternative to stopping the trend of imprisonment is the only chance to relieve a large percentage of their residents of minor charges turned life sentences.
As the end of another decade approaches, the responsibility lands in the young people’s hands in taking advantage of voting and reaching out to local legislation. If correctional institutions continue to cage and deny human beings of their basic rights how can any rehabilitation be expected to come out of imprisonment?