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Why American Prisons Owe Their Cruelty to Slavery

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Angola Prison
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Terms in this set (34)
A Louisiana penitentiary, sometimes referred to as “America’s bloodiest prison;” it is the largest maximum-security prison in the nation. It sits on land that used to be a plantation where enslaved people were forced to labor. Although the 13th Amendment abolished the institution of slavery in 1865, there is a provision in that amendment allowing for “involuntary labor” if a person is convicted of a crime. As a result of this provision, Angola operates as a penal plantation, with inmates forced to pick cotton and punished if they do not pick enough. Cotton picking quotas and punishment for not reaching them are not new to this prison; those practices are borrowed from plantation owners who kept a meticulous accounting of the productivity of their enslaved workers. Stevenson writes that one client of his was punished with solitary confinement if he did not meet cotton-picking quotas set by the prison.
A farm where the landowner forced enslaved people to work in large-scale crop cultivation so he could gain immense profits from their labor. The landowner and the enslaved people lived on the plantation, and the system was often self-sufficient. Slave plantations existed throughout the Americas. In the West Indies and Brazil, they were usually dedicated to the cultivation of sugarcane. In the context of the article, slave plantations were established in the United States primarily for the cultivation of cotton.
A figure of speech to describe solitary confinement in a prison. Inmates are placed in solitary confinement as punishment for violating rules within the prison, or sometimes purportedly for their own protection. The American Psychological Association has determined that solitary confinement is detrimental to inmates’ physical and psychological health. The negative effects are especially devastating for incarcerated people with existing mental health issues, who are overrepresented in the US prison population.
A legal process in which a person convicted of a crime is discharged from prison prior to the end of their sentencing term. Parole is granted after a prisoner has served a portion of their sentence and has demonstrated good behavior. If a parolee violates the conditions of their release, they are returned to prison to serve the remainder of their sentence.
The imprisonment of a person convicted of committing a crime. This confinement may occur when a person represents a danger to society or violates the law multiple times over a period of months or years. In the article, the author notes that the United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. This means that the percentage of Americans who are imprisoned is higher than the percentage of citizens imprisoned in any other country.
Image: Incarceration