One out of every 100 American adults is behind bars. That’s more than 2.4 million people who have been taken out of the workforce and had their rights legally stripped away. That’s a lot of potential exploitable workers for a corporation to use.
The United States has a long history of forcing its prison population to work as part of their punishment, although by no means is it the only country to do so. The 13th Amendment, passed in 1865, abolished slavery and involuntary servitude for everyone but prisoners. In 1871, Virginia declared prisoners “slaves of the state.” In 1977, the Supreme Court ruled that prisoners couldn’t form unions or make work demands [source]. This all led up to the 1980s and 90s where under both a republican president and a democrat, the prison population skyrocketed. Locking up people for lengthy minimum sentences is truly one of the last remaining bipartisan agreements. - BlackListedNews.com
Until the early 1970s, life without parole sentences were virtually unknown. But they exploded as part of what the ACLU calls America’s “late-twentieth-century obsession with mass incarceration and extreme, inhumane penalties.”
The report’s author Jennifer Turner states that today, the US is “virtually alone in its willingness to sentence non-violent offenders to die behind bars.” Life without parole for non-violent sentences has been ruled a violation of human rights by the European Court of Human Rights. The UK is one of only two countries in Europe that still metes out the penalty at all, and even then only in 49 cases of murder.
Even within America’s starkly racially-charged penal system, the disparities in non-violent life without parole are stunning. About 65% of the prisoners identified nationwide by the ACLU are African American. In Louisiana, that proportion rises to 91%, including Jackson and Washington who are both Black.
The US has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with 2.3 million people now in custody, with the war on drugs acting as the overriding push-factor. Of the prisoners serving life without parole for non-violent offences nationwide, the ACLU estimates that almost 80% were for drug-related crimes.
- Jailed for Life for Stealing a $159 Jacket? 3,200 Serving Life Without Parole for Nonviolent Crimes | Democracy Now!
A shocking new study by the American Civil Liberties Union has found that more than 3,200 people nationwide are serving life terms without parole for nonviolent offenses. Of those prisoners, 80 percent are behind bars for drug-related convictions. Sixty-five percent are African-American, 18 percent are white, and 16 percent are Latino — evidence of what the ACLU calls "extreme racial disparities." The crimes that led to life sentences include stealing gas from a truck, shoplifting, possessing a crack pipe, facilitating a $10 sale of marijuana, and attempting to cash a stolen check. We speak with Jennifer Turner, human rights researcher and author of the new ACLU report, "A Living Death: Life Without Parole for Nonviolent Offenses."