There’s a loophole in the system. Director Ava DuVernay’s (Queen Sugar, Selma) upcoming documentary The 13th takes a look at our prison system, proposing that racial inequality and careful wording of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (which abolished slavery) has led to the highest per-capita rate of incarceration in the world, with African-Americans the majority (as of 2013) of jailed people.
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, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. (Section 1)
The trailer is damning, featuring soundbites from Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the full context of which remains to be seen. The Clintons have already been slammed in public over parts of the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which Bill Clinton signed into law and subsequently led to an increased/overcrowded prison population. Hillary Clinton has promised to “reform our broken criminal justice system,” while Trump claims he’s the “law and order candidate;” we shudder to think what exactly that means.
The 13th also features commentary from historians, activists, and politicians, including Michelle Alexander, Van Jones, Senator Cory Booker, Grover Norquist, Khalil Muhammad, Angela Davis, Craig DeRoche, Bryan Stevenson, and Newt Gingrich. It is the first non-fiction film to open the New York Film Festival (this Friday, September 30th — I’ll be in attendance), and will be available for streaming on Netflix, October 7th.
Once you know why we’re here and how we got here, we’re on more solid footing to walk ourselves out of this deep valley that we found ourselves in. That’s the hope. (Ava DuVernay)