Movie Review: 13th

This documentary is a must-see for those of us who are trying to gain further perspective on today’s current racial tensions. It traces the roots of today’s prison industrial complex back to the Civil Rights era. During the Johnson administration the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed and discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin became illegal. Racial segregation was also prohibited by the Act. The Nixon campaign sought to capitalize on the resentment of some towards the very people who had fought so hard for civil rights legislation. “The Southern Strategy” by the Nixon campaign was designed to win the Southern vote by associating anti-war demonstrators with heroin and African American youth with marijuana. The increase in drug enforcement targeted these two populations. In succeeding presidential administrations, the war on drugs became the war on the black community.

Those in the film point out that the prison population from 1900 to 1970 was relatively stable. However, over the course of twenty years the U.S. prison population grew from 357,292 to 1.1 million people. It did not stop there; during the Clinton administration the prison population grew to 2 million people.  Both Bill and Hillary Clinton are featured stating that the 1994 crime bill which increased spending on law enforcement dramatically, was detrimental to the black community and that it created more problems than it solved. One would imagine that the acknowledgment of bad public policy, along with an examination of the social problems that it created, would lead government in a different direction. Sadly, the prison population in 2014 was 2.3 million prisoners in the U.S. and the prison industrial complex is alive and well. Find this fabulous documentary on Netflix.

(Reviewed by Justine.)