13th the Film: Mass Incarceration, Racial Inequality and the Prison Industrial Complex


“Combining archival footage with testimony from activists and scholars, director Ava DuVernay’s examination of the U.S. prison system looks at how the country’s history of racial inequality drives the high rate of incarceration in America.” (Netflix description of the film.)

This film is eye opening and incredibly informative. The film opens with a statistic as stated by Barack Obama that, “The United States is home to 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s prisoners. Think about that.”

This statistic is just about accurate from 2013 (as the Washington Post verifies,) and is likely even higher now. The film walks us through the steps that have progressed from the Nixon era up until the present, where a “Law and Order” and police system has disproportionately disadvantaged people of color. Throughout the years it has ramped up and ramped up and has gotten us to where we are today. Riots and protests have ensued when people are outraged at the free-reign of police brutality against black and brown bodies. In order to continue the progress towards fixing a broken system, we must first understand how the system has become broken: This film helps us do that.

You can watch all of the film for free on Youtube here. Or, you can watch it on Netflix. Just to be aware, there are some disturbing images of police brutality. A lot of communities see this kind of violence frequently and so we must all know what is going on.


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