What is mass incarceration? This phenomenon refers to the current extreme rates of imprisonment. For decades mass incarceration had been an unsolved problem in America. There has been efforts in changing it, but none have really made a large impact on the imprisonment system. Mass incarceration does not have only one cause. As Well as having more than one effect. Mass incarceration is a growing epidemic in America, but to solve this epidemic you must first understand the inner workings of the epidemic.
Birth of Mass Incarceration
To fully understand anything you will need to start from the beginning. This extensive imprisonment started after the releasing of of slaves in the South. In 1863 the emancipation proclamation was passed by Abraham lincoln declaring all slaves free that were residing in territory in rebellion against the federal government. While being new to freedom many slaves were blind to the fact that a new form of slavery was growing right under their noses. The typical recently freed slave had barely anything needed for there survival in America. These necessities include money, knowledge, and being used to depending on themselves. Then the mass incarceration movement began to hit recently freed slaves hard. They were arrested and rounded up for everything under the son. Things such as lingering debt,that a recently freed slave had no way possible of paying these debts off at all. Due to the still very realistic thoughts of racism, recently freed slaves were also being arrested on fabricated crimes.Without knowledge these ex-slaves had no way of knowing about the extreme way they were being violated by their fellow Americans.
Who really has rights in America? Throwing these ex-slaves in prisons for the rest of their lives was a direct violation of their human rights that stood for the idea of there being a right that is believed to belong justifiably to every person established in 1948. The civil rights movement was also sparked during this time period to help these unjustifiable wrongs being thrown on innocent people. This movement pushed the rights of citizens to political and social freedom and equality.
Bottomless Debt Pit
Along with being trialed for fabricated crimes, the trial process alone was a trap in itself no matter if you were found guilty or not. For every trial and case there was an overall court cost that needed to be paid off. The majority of the people being wronged for these crimes were ex-slaves, and these ex-slaves had no means of paying for anything extra in their life besides their necessities. When it came time to pay these court debts they had no way of paying, and this put them in a covert never ending debt repay.
Common form of trapping From this inability to pay, there was a direct stem into a form of debt slavery called peonage. Peonage is a system where those who were unable to pay their debts were forced into work in exchange until their debts were paid off. This was loopoled as during this time values of certain things or actions were not established or not fair. An example of this is the pig laws. This was a law that established cruel punishment for only stealing a farm animal. This shown how the value of crimes and punishment really had no balance during this time. Working in peonage also was related to one of these unbalanced values. No one truly had a direct cash value on the amount of work someone put in, so it was their word against yours in the debate of if you worked enough to pay off your current debts. Since this was so closely related to slavery the economic benefits were also extremely relatable to each other.
Therefore, during the time of their work these peonage workers were not released because the true value of their working time was up to the money hungry employer. In Fact most were not released until they couldn’t work anymore. From a business standpoint free workers making you money was a gold mine, and employers did everything to make sure pronage was used to the fullest. To America this incarceration spree was nothing but a juicy business deal to replace the recently abolished slavery. More examples of this dreadful truth was convict leasing and chain gangs. Convict leasing was a labor system where prisons gave convicts still serving sentences to private parties and companies. These companies were also responsible for providing these convicts with shelter, clothes, and food. This soon was seen as a major problem as the companies were seen providing the absolute bare minimum when it came to these necessities. Death rates among leased convicts were approximately 10 times higher than the death rates of prisoners in non-lease states.
This horrific system was not stopped until 1928 when Alabama was the last to end the practice. The increasing end to convict leasing brought the exposure to another form of cruel punishment for labor called chain gangs. These chain gangs were groups of inmates under security outside of the prison usually performing some type of construction work.