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An Issue of Mass Incarceration in The Films When They See Us and 13th

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Even though the United States has been declining crime rates for more than two decades, it still keeps incarcerating a large amount of the population. The lack of justice from the police department towards African Americans and Latino men grows disproportionately. Mass incarceration is the most recent form in which the criminal justice system infiltrates the lives of families, creating a new form of racial segregation. The series “When They See Us” is an example of this social injustice. Five teenagers of color were arrested and charged with raping and beating a white female jogger in Central Park, even though they did not commit the crime. Another film, “13th”, shows the mass incarceration in the United States and the history of racial inequality.

Viewing the example of mass incarceration on When They See Us makes the spectator feel disgusted by how the NYPD damaged this five kids lives without a care in the world. The kids were sentenced from the beginning; the cops (whose pushed them into false confessions), the prosecutor, police unit, all confabulated to create a story and offer justice at any cost. The system allowed no doubts regarding his guilt, and the trial was unfair and fraudulent, as evidence and confessions were manipulated.

Throughout this story, the director displays the trauma related with incarceration in the families of color and also, pretend to lead the public to evaluate and become aware of equality. This is a true story, that more than 30 years later continue to occur with impunity, because the system still exists. This terrible story offers, through its plot, a new form of racial discrimination in addressing mass incarceration, describing its importance to African-American family life. This is a new stage in the history of American racial inequality that is demonstrated by the concentration of imprisonment among young African-American men, which could be generator of social inequality. As the data show, in the US there was an explosion in prison populations from 1980 to 2000, at which time the event takes place. This phenomenon of mass incarceration has had devastating effects on families and communities, and our protagonists are victims of this new form of social inequality, their lives were destroyed for something they didn’t do. The film addresses racism and highlights the need for a dialogue on systemic racism in this country.

In addition, “13th” (named for the constitutional amendment that abolished slavery), shows the story of incarceration as a new form of racial discrimination. This critically addresses the racist and slave origin of the United States prison system, which is the basis of the prison massification that the country has experienced since the 1970s to the present day. The documentary shows the cracks and contradictions of American criminal policy, to reveal how disadvantaged racial sectors, especially the African-American community, have suffered from legal slavery to low-paid work in prisons.

The documentary is an important contribution to understand the current prison system and to whom it is really directed, young minority men with very low levels of education.. The director achieved a film that draws a straight and strong line from the abolition of slavery to today’s mass incarceration epidemic, showing its root cause: money.

To conclude, both films focus attention on the idea of mass incarceration as a new form of social segregation that show the prison boom in a long historical perspective, express how the inequality is cumulative because deepens the disadvantages for the most marginal in society, express why these inequalities are intergenerational, affecting not just those who go to prison but their families and children, too. Both films reinforce the idea that mass incarceration increases social inequality, fundamentally affecting black communities, who strips their rights, undermining the promise of a democracy that works for everyone.

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An Issue Of Mass Incarceration In The Films When They See Us And 13th. (2020, October 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved August 16, 2022, from
“An Issue Of Mass Incarceration In The Films When They See Us And 13th.” GradesFixer, 10 Oct. 2020,
An Issue Of Mass Incarceration In The Films When They See Us And 13th. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 16 Aug. 2022].
An Issue Of Mass Incarceration In The Films When They See Us And 13th [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2020 Oct 10 [cited 2022 Aug 16]. Available from:
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