Slavery, the 13th Amendment, and Mass Incarceration: A Response to Patrick Rael – AAIHS

Slavery, the 13th Amendment, and Mass Incarceration: A Response to Patrick Rael – AAIHS – And, this is not just a point made by politically imprisoned Black radical intellectuals. US jurisprudence has avowed the connection in no uncertain terms at many junctures – even after the moment that you say a clear line had been drawn between slavery and imprisonment. Just listen to J. Christian, a Virginia Supreme Court Justice in 1871, in Ruffin v Commonwealth, a case that allowed for the enslavement of prisoners, in which he states that the prisoner has “as a consequence of his crime, not only forfeited his liberty, but all his personal rights ….He is for the time being the slave of the state. He is civiliter mortuss [civilly dead]; and his estate, if he has any, is treated like that of a dead man.” What this makes apparent is that your statement that “the law had long distinguished between slavery and incarceration” by the end of the Civil War, is categorically wrong. No such clear distinction had even been made for white prisoners (Ruffin in this case was actually a white man), but the law definitely had made no such distinction in respect to Africans whom the law had defined as sub- to non-human for hundreds of years before the Ruffin decision.1

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