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Documentary 13 Summary

Decent Essays
Our government has redesigned slavery as mass incarceration, creating an epidemic in our society. Examining Rios’s accounts in his ethnographic work Punished and the documentary 13 we see how the government has used racial coding and moral theater to restructure slavery into our everyday lives and how this new system affects the everyday lives of these marginalized people.
After the 13th amendment, the abolishment of slavery, change came to our great nation, but not in the way that many hoped for. Although the 13th amendment granted freedom to all American’s, there is a section of that legislature that excludes criminals from these freedoms. The change we start to see is our government exploiting this little detail through racial coding.
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Crack got harsher sentences than cocaine did. This was racially coded because they are the same drug; crack is just more accessible to the African American community. Rios also pointed to instances where his subjects encountered racial coding through the term “super predator”, as seen in 13th (DuVernay 2016), this term was used by many politicians, refereeing to the groups of kids that would run wild creating havoc among society. Rios’s (2011) boys heard this term so often and by every social institution, otherwise known as the youth control complex, these boys soon began to believe that they were truly criminal beings.
Although there is proof that racial coding is something that our country has implemented to maintain the inequalities of race and class within our societies even with legislation that outlaws these practices. Our government uses what Rios calls moral theater to justify their actions. Moral theater removes the blame off of the state that is not providing adequate social and economic programs, and places the blame on the citizens that are stuck in this criminalization cycle (Rios 2011). Mass incarceration is used in both Rios and 13th as an
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Mass incarceration has been disguised to look like a safety measure to get the “bad guys” off the street when in reality it is just a warehouse for African Americans. Once labeled as a criminal all of ones rights are stripped of them, reflecting the same principles that we saw during slavery, expect now that person becomes a slave of the state instead of to another person. This label makes going to school, getting a job, and voting, almost impossible, and without proper programs to rehabilitate these individuals into society, they will never become a productive part of society again. Rios (2011) showed how mass incarceration played a role in the everyday lives of these boys, all of them were asked to write the names of people, friends or family, that were incarcerated they all knew at least six. These boys watched their friends and family get locked up for petty crimes, do their crime and get thrown back into society without a way to improve their situation. Many tried to change but fighting against constant criminalization is hard and many fall back into the cycle of crime and mass incarceration. These young boys see no other option, the idea of college is a goal but it’s extremely foreign and the role models that these boys have to look up to are usually the men that just got out
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