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The 13th Amendment reads in Section One: “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, nor any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Understanding this contradictory character of the 13th Amendment sheds light on the utilization of the criminal justice system in the perpetuation of bondage for the purpose of institutional racism and class exploitation.
On Nov. 4, California voters passed criminal justice reform measure Proposition 47. Proposition 47 changes the lowest level drug possession and petty theft crimes from felonies to simple misdemeanors for some people. Although re-sentencing is not guaranteed, up to 10,000 people in California’s prisons and jails will be eligible for resentencing, and newly sentenced individuals who meet the requirements will be under county jurisdiction.
Over 65 million people in the U.S., perhaps a fifth of our sisters and brothers, are not enjoying the “unalienable rights” to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” promised when the Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776. They are about 20 percent of our U.S. population. This July 4 can be an opportunity to remember them and rededicate ourselves and our country to making these promises real for all people in the U.S.
In America there are 24 million children with an incarcerated parent. Judges do not consider children when sentencing a parent, nor do they consider where those children will go or who will care for them. As parents, we must think about our children before we act because the courts have no money and our children are the ones suffering.
In a protest spreading through Georgia’s prison system, inmates are striking for better conditions and to be paid for their work, which they're now forced to do for free. They've locked themselves down in peaceful protest but are being punished violently, some beatings resulting in broken ribs and one man beaten beyond recognition. Sign the petitions and learn other ways you can help.
“This system treats us like throw-away people,” says Carolyn Brown, a Seattle volunteer with prison reform group Justice Works! An African American with a record, her effort to find a job is deeply frustrating due to systemic racism.
When Election Day arrives in November, the state of Virginia will likely play a huge role in determining whether Democrat Barack Obama or Republican John McCain is the next president of the United States. Unfortunately, the vote tally from the Old Dominion will be illegitimate because the state will disenfranchise nearly 350,000 individuals who are barred from voting because of felony convictions.