From Fields to Cells: A Discussion on how the U.S. Prison System is Today’s Slavery

  • Carolina De Avila (Iowa State University)
  • Maria Fonseca (Iowa State University)
  • Luis Gonzalez (Iowa State University)
  • Lincoln Lutrick (Iowa State University)


Has slavery truly ended, or has it simply evolved to become morally acceptable? Slavery exists today by another name: incarceration; slaves also have a new name: prisoners. Our criminal justice system is one of mass incarceration that targets African Americans. According to the Bureau of Prison Statistics, black men comprise 6.6% of the United States population, but make up 38% of the prison population (2018). According to Penal Reform International, people who have been held in punitive conditions are released to society, often in a worse physical and mental health state than when they entered. In addition, this increases their probability of being institutionalized again in their future. Slavery was not abolished with the Emancipation Proclamation, it was merely redesigned. The 13th Amendment provides a means for the continuation of slavery, labor, and oppression through the United States prison system. This session will explore the historical to present day experiences of African Americans, from slavery to Black Codes to current day criminalization and imprisonment that has caused disproportionate numbers of African Americans in the United States prison system.

Keywords: NCORE-ISCORE Project Scholars

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Published on
28 Feb 2019