13th review

Rated: 2/5

America. Home to 5% of the world’s population.
America, which has 25% of the world’s total prison population. The highest rate of incarceration in the world.

For a country so great that illegals would want to flock to it, one would wonder why it is that the prison population is so high (or did I just answer that question?). I have some ideas as to why that is, but let’s allow the documentary a shot.

We are the products of history that our ancestors chose… if we’re white. If we’re black we are products of the history that our ancestors most likely did not choose. Yet here we all are together, the products of that choices that we have to understand that in order to escape from it.

 

The 13th amendment to the constitution makes it unconstitutional for someone to be held as a slave. In other words it grants freedom, to all Americans. There are exceptions, including criminals. There’s a clause, a loophole.

The 13th amendment, signed by Lincoln.

The 13th Amendment to the Constitution declared that “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.” Formally abolishing slavery in the United States, the 13th Amendment was passed by the Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified by the states on December 6, 1865. — www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/13thamendment.html

This “loophole” doesn’t seem to be a loophole so much as something clearly spelled out. If you’re a criminal, you will pay for your crimes. Personally, I always thought forced community service would be the best way, being forced to doing hard labor to improve communities as opposed to just staying locked in a building for several years.
But soon after the 13th amendment got signed, a large majority of blacks were arrested for the sake of exploiting this aspect of the 13th amendment. Arrested for minor petty stuff, and for stuff more than petty I’m sure. Similar things happen today, but with the slavery aspect downplayed.

 

 

The film mentioned Birth of a Nation (of course) and suggests it was responsible for the resurgence of the KKK. That’s probably true, but it doesn’t mention that the film did stir up racial controversy, even back then. In any case, it’s difficult to ignore the fact that there was a lot of widespread discrimination and racism back then, even with the message around that slavery was over, that there should be peace between everyone, blah, blah, blah. The reality was different, for a long while, up until the 60s, but even then things didn’t really quell down or get more fair until the late 90s.

Does this movie really need to highlight the word “CRIMINAL” in big bold letters everytime it is said?

 

Seriously, make a drinking game out of how often this comes up during the film.

Migration image, showing blacks migrating from the racist South to places like Los Angeles (oh dear), Oakland, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, New York, and Boston. And then the documentary continues with all the stuff that anyone who graduated from high school should know about. Repeating, repeating, blah blah blah. Get to the damn 60s already! Get to the 70s blacksploitation film era! Black Panthers!

Unfortunately at the very same time that the Civil Rights movement was gaining steam, crime rates were beginning to rise in this country.

This gave politicians an excuse to say that the civil right’s movement was the cause for the rise in crime. The implication being that this wasn’t the case, or that the rise in crime had nothing to do with blacks wanting more rights. They really needed to expand on this a bit, offer an explanation as to the rise in crime during the 60s. Even going for theories that support their stance, such as crime rising due to whites objecting to this civil rights movement, thus causing fighting which in turn caused some whites and many blacks to get arrested (the blacks getting arrested just because they were involved in the fighting, nevermind that they didn’t instigate/start it).

From what I’ve gathered, there is no clear definitive answer as to why crime did rise in the 60s and continue on through the 80s, yet somehow dropped in the 90s (again, why that decade is so great, despite a rocky start and some hiccups here and there [what decade doesn’t have those?]). Some say it grew out of frustration for the lack of progress made during the civil rights movement. Or that the economy was struggling, jobs were low, so it became popular to blame the poor and view them as criminals amidst all this. Didn’t help that many in the 70s were turning to drugs (which both cubans/columbians/mexicans and the FBI were responsible for to a varying degree). Many became drug dealers as a result of not finding a decent job. Conditions made to favor the elite and make the lower-class suffer.

 

Then there’s the more interesting (borderline conspiracy) theories that are more basic and less political in nature. For instance:

Nevin hypothesizes that the crime rate surged due to the increasing prevalence of lead based paint and gas. Gross paraphrase: lead poisoning in children lowers their IQs and drastically increases impulsivity and aggression during adolescence. What makes his case compelling is that his theory supposedly holds true across 9 different countries as well as different periods of time, where all the other factors (economy, legality of abortion, gun control, population growth, etc) were all controlled for. — www.quora.com/What-caused-the-surge-in-crime-in-the-USA-from-the-1960s-to-1980s

That and the baby-boomer generation with many more youths out there than ever before, and youths tend to act more immature and aggressively on average than those who are older and more mature.

Other theories are around, including the introduction of a more liberal justice system which arguably led to a weaker crime deterrent, or that the civil rights legistlation that was intended to do good ended up having the opposite effect (like the No Child Left Behind law under George W. Bush). But the bottom line is that there is no definitive answer. On the other hand, it could be a simple case of, “All of the above.” A generation of baby boomers getting lead paint into their system and letting their hormones get out of control during a poor economic time and during a hot political climate amidst the cold war where it seemed like the world would be destroyed anyday. Not to mention the inherent racism that still existed despite how some people may have felt about it, or how things officially should be. A combination of all those factors, in my opinion, is what led to the high crime rate. The drop of crime in the 90s (mainly from 1993 and onwards), however, is another mystery. Maybe Fresh Prince of Bel Air played a factor into it.

Southern Strategy, Nixon speaking subtly to working class whites to help on the war on drugs, against criminals, seemingly subliminally advertising to whites to attack blacks. Not sure about that, but I definitely agree on government agency strategies to destroy civil rights leaders and hinder/harm their movement.

Then comes Ronald Reagon who upped the ante on the War on Drugs. And I’ll agree, Reagon and the war on drugs fucking sucked and had anything but the intended effects. But it did provide some amusing commercials and cultural stuff as a result.

Crack/cocaine comes into play. Harsh prison times given to those who had/used the drug (among other drugs).

The documentary indicates that blacks would spend the rest of their lives in prison if caught with crack, but whites would get a slap on the wrist. I’ll need to look into that.

Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986:

“Under the resulting law, defendants convicted with just five grams of crack cocaine, the weight of less than two sugar packets and a quantity that yields about 10 to 50 doses, were subject to a five-year mandatory minimum sentence. The same five-year penalty was triggered for the sale of powder cocaine only when an offense involved 500 grams, 100 times the minimum quantity for crack, which yields between 2,500 and 5,000 doses. Similarly, while the sale of 5,000 grams of powder, which can yield up to 50,000 doses, subjected defendants to a 10-year sentence, the same mandatory sentence was triggered by selling only 50 grams of crack, which produces about 100 to 500 doses. In 2009, this mandatory sentencing structure resulted in average sentences for crack cocaine offenses that were over two years longer than for offenses involving powder cocaine.

Under the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, defendants convicted of a crack cocaine offense will now need to possess at least 28 grams, compared to the previous five grams, to receive a five-year mandatory
minimum. To trigger the 10-year mandatory minimum requires a crack cocaine quantity of 280 grams. “
– www.sentencingproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Federal-Crack-Cocaine-Sentencing.pdf

And according to the same source above, at least as far back as 2006, this documentary is right. Blacks get tried far more often than whites for crack possession (blacks tend to get tried over 80% of the time compared to whites during 2006, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that statistic was similar or higher prior to that year). Plus, “Between 1994 and 2003, the average time served by African Americans for drug offenses increased by 62 percent, compared to an increase of 17 percent for white drug offenders.”

However, what is worth bringing up is the statistics of repeat offenders, or how often these drug users actually use drugs. Daily? Weekly? Monthly? Because despite the fact that both whites and blacks use crack on a statistically similar level, blacks tend to use it more often according to one study. Documentaries like this tend to look at the numbers and only see “racism” as the primary reason for the higher rate of incarceration of blacks compared to whites (at least as far as drug offenses go, nevermind the other stuff that could get you in prison), but never dive too far into the “why” aspect. It’s just assumed that the justice system and police are all inherently racist, when it could instead be that blacks do crime/drugs more often than whites, have a higher high school dropout rate than whites. An extensive study would have to be done on this to clear that matter up.

But there is evidence to support the racial discrimination argument, something this documentary didn’t do enough of. Such as with Baltimore ex-cop Michael Woods and what he had reported after years of serving on the Baltimore police force, proving that racial discrimination was prevalent on the force.

But it’s also too simple to side with one view over the other. There’s truth to both, in that there is racial discrimination, but blacks also commit more crimes overall compared to whites. There’s racial discrimination, it is wrong, but statistics like that also bring a fucked up sense of justification to it. Neither side is entirely in the right. There’s also education, family/upbringing, economic situation, and culture to consider. This documentary doesn’t dive enough into the nitty gritty statistics. Conversations on pages such as this, do.

Oh, and of course this film being released during the political presidential season of 2016 decided it had to toss in an anti-Trump bit about 30 minutes in. But in all fairness, Bill Clinton isn’t shown in any better of a light, showing that he signed a bill which greatly expanded the prison system, in 1994. Which the film views in a negative light, and it can only be put in a questionable light at best. Because even I have to admit it’s a bit questionable for the high amount of people in prison in America. And many people, white and black (and of other races) aren’t always given a just sentence. I blame privatized prisons for a good portion of this.

More “CRIMINAL” in your face big bold letter text. That gets annoying.

The rising number of people in prison growing as the film proceeds, as the years go on. You know, along with the growing population in America.

This is going over the whole Black Panther movement too quickly. That in of itself deserves an entire documentary.

And this documentary is bouncing back and forth through time way too often. It should be done in chronological order. But maybe it’s not that easy to create a sense of growing dread if it was done that way. Most of these events that are being shown are prior to the 90s. Trying to create the image that things are just as bad now as they were back then or something like that?

It is a bit scary though, seeing how much the prison population has spiked over the decades since 1980.

Oh fuck, here we go. The George Zimmerman and Treyvon Martin bit. I’m fucking sick and tired of documentaries and civil rights groups using this whole incident as a justification for #blacklivesmatter after all the evidence that shows Treyvon isn’t exactly a saint.

ALEC. Interesting that this documentary brings that up. Not many know about that organization, which is a bit shady. And harping on the fact that it’s composed largely of Republicans. I think the documentary has pretty much stated that it’s not too keen on taking sides with either Republicans or Democrats, considering how much it has bashed Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton. Not sure why it’s emphasizing ALEC’s political leanings at this point if neither side is clean. In a nutshell, ALEC is basically a corporate entity that writes laws for politicians to make it easy for them to pass the bill off as their own, thus injecting corporate control into politics. And ALEC is in-part responsible for prison policies and prison expansion. CCA, an extension of ALEC, is primarily responsible for this.

They seem to be cutting off the ALEC spokesperson a little too much.

A little more bashing Trump.

Look, I get that it’s wrong to privatize prisons and elements of prisons and make a profit off it, which in turn encourages wanting more prisoners for more profit. Including ankle/wrist bracelets for GPS tracking of parolees. But they’re also talking as if they’d prefer a prison cell as opposed to the GPS. They should make it more clear that such an outcome of that sort of parole is bad because of the financial benefits it has to private corporations like ALEC/CCA. It shouldn’t be the corporations that profit off of prisoners, it should be either the State or the Nation, the FEDs.

A little too many late night talk show clips for a documentary like this. Just my opinion.

Too poor for bail. Yeah, I find bail to be bullshit too, especially for the amount of money they ask at times. It’s ridiculous, and serves only as a way for the justice system to profit off of someone who may or may not be guilty for the crime they’ve been charged with (innocent until proven guilty, but we’ll just pretend you’re guilty for now).

And the bullshit process of taking/not taking plea deals.

If you look at the whole problem, you say, ‘What are we doing?’ We have too many laws locking too many people up for too many things; giving them sentences that are too harsh. Putting them in prison, and while they are in prison, doing very little of anything to rehabilitate them so that they can re-enter civil society when they get out, and when they get out we shun them.

That. Now that quote right there is what the entire documentary should’ve been based on. Not the racist angle, but the prison reform angle. That there’s gotta be a better way to punish criminals more justly in relation to the crime they commit.

And some Hillary bashing, to an extent. Whoop, and there’s some more Trump bashing. For crying out loud, can you stop with the political propaganda and stick with racial prison stuff, and actually propose some solutions to the problem?

So I guess the solution the film is proposing is an amendment to the 13th amendment of the Constitution. To bring it up again:

“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.”

So basically rewrite it like this:

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

So if slavery (in this case forced labor) is to be eradicated, then what should the punishment be for criminals? What should be done to them if forced labor isn’t one of the consequences? Being forced to sit on their ass all day? Just the forced confinement part? Seems to me that there’s 2 options for punishing someone for a crime, either force them to do something (forced labor) or take some rights/liberties/privileges away temporarily until their term is up. And we all know how much everyone loves that latter option (not at all), nevermind how one would go about enforcing such a thing. Plus that raises the question of how that works to pay back their dept to society which the criminal has done harm to. Personally, all I can currently think of is reforming prison sentences, reforming the length/severity of the punishment based on the crime (or at least some of the crimes). But I’m not even sure about how one would go about doing that or what the end-goal should even be.

Oh fuck, here we go, Ferguson. The documentary only covers it briefly, and I can’t say their coverage is entirely inaccurate, just brief. There’s a better documentary for more depth when it comes to that.

All the killings of the unarmed blacks being brought up here. Not much mention of the same thing happening to whites, on a similar (if not greater) scale. Goddamnit I hate it when documentaries try this force of sympathy to win you over to their side! Then again, what documentary doesn’t do that?

Well, it somehow ended abruptly. And guess what? No clear proposed solutions to the problem. Just, “Look! Look! This is some fucked up shit!”
“Oh that’s terrible. What should we do about it?”
“I don’t know. Start a twitter trend?”
“Fuck off.”

Documentary could’ve trimmed off 10 minutes of 2016 presidential election BS, or even replace it with more relevant information relating to the core subject of the film. It’s not focused, jumps around time periods too much, isn’t entirely honest with some of the points it brings up, and doesn’t attempt to dig into the arguments from everyone on all sides who agrees/disagrees with the subject and who both have their own set of solutions that could’ve been glossed over.

The documentary needed to highlight debates, not lectures. It needed to highlight people discussing this subject, about how long/short prison sentences should be, if prisons should be eliminated altogether or not, if the death sentence should happen faster or if there should be a death sentence, if racism is actually that big of a factor in all this, etc. There’s enough fucking lecturing on this subject in school and in news. It needs discussion from opposing sides. The worst part is that the documentary even brings up the fact that video evidence and the Internet and social media makes it easier to bring up this subject for discussion, a discussion that the documentary says needs to happen, yet the documentary only lectures.

“Do as I say, not as I do.”

Go fuck yourself. Anyone could learn everything this documentary brought up in less than half the time through online forums and actual debate. Hell, they probably would’ve learned more and even come up with a solution within 2 hours doing that rather than watching this. You know, like arguing that people shouldn’t go to prison for buying/using/selling drugs, period.  That, and there’s no proposed solution to this inherent problem.  At least documentaries like End of the Line at least have the point of, “Stop eating fish or they’ll go extinct and oceans will suck,” or Super Size Me with the point, “Don’t eat at McDonalds or your sex life will suck and then you’ll die.”

This documentary is a waste of time. It’s not something that’s going to sway anyone’s opinion. If no one knew about some of the facts this documentary brought up prior to watching this, then they’re in need of a better learning environment.
PS: There’s your fucking review for 13th, jeremyfizzy. Be careful what you wish for.

 

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