Prisons – modern day slavery?

A documentary called “13th“ came out in 2016 detailing the incarceration of African Americans and how even after the abolishment of slavery, they are still treated so unequally.

And Castleton will be showing it tomorrow night for all to see.

“It’s a really powerful lesson about what African Americans are protesting for, why there’s a “Black Lives Matter” movement, so the issue of mass incarceration is a big problem in this country and its very disproportionately African Americans who are imprisoned,” said reference librarian, Charlotte Gerstein, who is a large reason as to why this movie will be shown at school.

Issues behind the mass incarceration of African Americans are vast, and affect so many aspects of human life.

“Seeing a rise in white nationalist pride and such is that we recognize that the issue of slavery is not behind us, but still with us, and that we’re still dealing with it,” said Castleton professor and Political Science Program Coordinator Rich Clark.

One of the first statements in the movie is a fact — that America represents 5 percent of the world’s population, but 25 has percent of the world’s prisoners.

Another astonishing fact from the movie is that black men make up just 6.5% of the population of the United States, but they represent 40.2% of prison population.

One out of four people in the United States, also known as the “Land Of the Free,” are locked up behind bars. There are so many issues behind this fact.

One is a financial issue.

“It’s a non-partisan issue because both Republicans and the Democrats have recognized mass incarceration, just the toll that it takes on human resources, on fiscal resources, it’s cheaper to put you through college than to send you to jail for four years, right? And then the loss of human capital to the marketplace from mass incarceration, not to mention the difficulty in reintroducing incarcerated populations in to the system, all of that is a huge issue enough,” said Clark, his voice rising.

Clark said the question of what incarceration is intended to achieve needs to be addressed.

“Is the goal of our criminal justice system rehabilitation or punishment?” Clark asked.

From an article by the American Psychological Association, rehabilitation was once a key part of U.S. prison policy. Up until the mid 1970’s, U.S. prisoners were pushed toward developing occupational skills and breaking free from psychological issues like drug abuse and aggression, which were keeping them from being free citizens.

Fast-forward to now, rehabilitation is no longer the primary goal or incarceration, according to the article. The “get tough on crime” approach has been applied, which has had just a slight effect on crime rates, and has caused exponential growth in prison populations.

When asked about the issue and the movie’s screening, African American students said they didn’t really feel comfortable addressing it. The president of the Rutland NAACP branch, which is co-sponsoring the screening with the college, said it’s not surprising.

“I can certainly understand why that student would have the response that they did. My immediate response when you say that is, okay so what are we going to do to take care of that student? What is Castleton going to do so that student feels comfortable?” said Tabitha Pohl-Moore.

Student Sarah Liell, president of the college’s Planned Parenthood club, said students should really want to see this film.

“This film is important, infuriating, and necessary,” said Liell, who will serve as a moderator at the post-film discussion.

“I hope that this movie leads to insightful conversation about the reality of racism in our country. However, conversation is not enough. In a perfect world, after people watched the film they would try to change society and really make a difference,” she said.

The screening will be held on Thursday, Nov. 2 at 6 p.m. in Castleton’s Herrick Auditorium.

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