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The US prison system is largely a loophole to recreate slavery without violating the letter of the 13th Amendment. http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/gilmoreprisonslavery...

Despite black Americans being incarcerated at greater rates than white Americans, there are far more white Americans incarcerated than there are black Americans.

So if the objective was to re-create slavery, they did a very poor job out of it.

No, our prison system hurts all races: white, black, Asian, native, etc. And sadly -- because of the racism prevalent in US society -- if we want true prison reform, we have to educate people that prison affects all communities, and not just communities of color.

Because there will never be reform as long as around 30% of America's white population believes that prison mainly hurts black people.

Just like it took heroin to finally wake white Americans up to the fact that the drug war is hurting us all, so we must find a way to wake people up to the fact that the prison system is terrible burden to us all. Repeating the false claim that prison is primarily a black problem only prolongs the problem.

OP never said anything about race or incarceration statistics -- he just said the prison system is a mechanism to recreate slavery. To Americans, the word "slave" has a very, very particular meaning -- revolving around the nature and history of black people in our country.

But it should not, and can not, not be divorced from the abstract concept of what slavery is. Slavery is about power, and slaves come in many forms and fashions. And if you forget that, you'll be made a slave yourself. You don't have to be in chains to be one. This is what OP is referring to -- not that prisons and their systems seek to reintroduce "black american slavery", but to reintroduce, and normalize, the abstract concept of 'slavery' in society, all on its own. That's much more dangerous.

You see it in a lot of places where people talk about the lives prisoners lived, during and after release -- go check the comments on any news article. You'll see how many people think it is "just" that said convict has their entire being and life crushed. That it's good, good that they're a slave, in return for the crimes they committed.

This isn't really very different from what you're saying, in a sense -- that everyone is set back when we lose track of these things. But the difference between "slave" meaning "black american slaves" and "slave as a concept" is an important distinction to draw. There's an important ontological gap, there.

Frederick Douglass took note of this well over 150 years ago:

> The power of the antebellum slaveholding class, after all, resided not only in its direct domination of black slaves, but in its ability to divide and exploit an even larger multiracial working class. Douglass knew how well this system worked from bitter personal experience: As a hired slave in Baltimore, he was assaulted by white dockworkers with bricks and handspikes. Yet he remained clearheaded about who benefited from this racial violence. As he wrote in 1855: “The slaveholders, with a craftiness peculiar to themselves, by encouraging the enmity of the poor, laboring white man against the blacks, succeeds in making the said white man almost as much a slave as the black slave himself…. Both are plundered, and by the same plunderers.”


> OP never said anything about race or incarceration statistics -- he just said the prison system is a mechanism to recreate slavery.

He used the term "recreate slavery", which in this context would mean to re-establish the chattel slavery of people of African ancestry that existed previously in US. And the article he referenced very specifically discussed African-American slavery. So that's what I responded to.

As an aside, Americans of Scotch-Irish [1] ancestry (which includes my own background) are a very vengeful people. This culture, which also has some positive traits (bravery, loyalty, etc), had a huge impact on the general culture United States and its attitudes toward criminal justice.

But if you've never been around rural people of Scotch-Irish ancestry, you'd probably find their beliefs on justice fairly shocking. These are the people who often believe that if someone who goes to prison for a relatively minor, non-violent offense, and is raped in prison -- even if they're a family member! -- that this person "had it coming" or "deserved it". Prison is for suffering, not redemption.

Ironically, these same people are frequently very overt Christians, often evangelicals (they converted en masse from Calvinism--typically Presbyterianism--to Baptist during the great awakenings of the 19th century). But they're definitely Old Testament Christians, with not much use for most of the New Testament (except perhaps Revelations).

Anyway, combine that kind of culture with some of the other factors you describe, and you end up with the prison culture we have today in the United States.

1. And no, for us it's not "Scots-Irish". "Scotch-Irish" was in common usage when they immigrated to the US in the 18th century, and that's what's been passed down over the years (and it's how my grandparents described our ancestry, which after careful genealogical study was indeed Ulster Scots with a bit of German thrown in): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scotch-Irish_Americans

Slavery isn't entirely synonymous with racism. Just mostly so.

The elite need their lower class.

Yep, racism came later. Racism developed to justify slavery. Slavery didn't come into being due to racism.

I wouldn't be so definitive, but if anyone wants to see an excellent documentary on the subject, watch 13th (after the 13th Amendment):


I'll add a couple of common arguments that at least get you thinking, even if they aren't as powerful as evidence.

First, note that mass incarceration began after segregation and other civil rights abuses were outlawed. One ramped down and the other ramped up. Many believe that one tool of oppression merely replaced another.

Second, the legal and prison system have always been used, since the Civil War, to oppress black Americans. Mass incarceration wasn't a new tool, but an expansion of an old one. And it extends into today, as has been well-publicized recently. Or I'm sure everyone has heard the phrase, 'driving while black'. I've personally witnessed that kind of abuse.

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