Analysis Of Incarceration In Film By Ava Duvernay

976 Words 4 Pages
On October 7th, 2016, Netflix released an original documentary called 13TH, produced by Ava DuVernay. The documentary provides a historical account of the U.S criminal justice system following the end of the Civil War, and continuing to the present. The documentary could not have come out at a better time, as the country is currently in the midst of a national discussion of police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement. The excellence of 13TH is evident in its position as the opening film at the prestigious NY Film Festival, becoming the first non-fiction film to open the festival in its 54 year history (Kruger). DuVernay combines decade’s worth of historical and present day footage, expert testimony, illuminating graphics, and powerful …show more content…
The U.S has about 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s prisoners, meaning that one in four individuals is locked up in the land of the free. One of the central arguments of the documentary is that the road to massive incarceration in the U.S began with Congress passing the 13th Amendment to the Constitution on January 31st, 1865. This Amendment abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, “except as punishment for crime.” Through these five words, the 13th Amendment essentially created a loophole in which slavery could continue after the Civil War through arresting African Americans for minor offenses such as loitering and vagrancy. It is argued that racism and a resurgence of hate against African Americans was perpetuated through the release of the 1915 film The Birth of a Nation by D.W. Griffith. Griffith’s film is described as having widely disseminated the animalistic and rapist stereotypes of African American males, while simultaneously causing the rebirth of the KKK and a new wave of terrorism …show more content…
As the media continued to portray African Americans as criminals, the Civil Rights Movement formed. However, just as the movement seemed to be making progress, the crime rate in the U.S rose, and while it is attributable to the large baby boomer generation, it was easy for politicians to blame both the movement and African Americans. In 1970, the U.S prison population was 357,292. Nixon’s presidency marked the start of the era of mass incarceration. Not only was Nixon tough on crime, but he initiated a war on drugs after declaring drugs to be America’s “public enemy number one” (13TH). By framing drugs as a public enemy, Nixon gave birth to the idea of dealing with drugs as a crime rather than a health issue. Overtime, it became clear to some that Nixon’s war on drugs was not solely about fighting drugs. Nixon’s advisor John Ehrlichman was caught on tape stating that America “had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people,” and through associating both groups with drugs, they were able to paint them as villains (13TH). Targeting drugs became a means through which Nixon’s administration could crack down on movements such as black power, women’s liberation, and

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