by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University – Scholarship in Action
I just spoke to my friend Ryan Mack about our “Never Going Back” initiative to attack the problems of mass incarceration and recidivism in America. During the conversation, I had a revelation: Most of us are just a step away from being incarcerated, or have yet to understand what it truly means to be free. Sure, the US incarcerates more of its citizens than any country in the world, but it might be deeper than you think.
The United States Constitution doesn’t abolish slavery for everyone. Actually, if you’ve been convicted of a felony, the 13th Amendment actually says that it’s OK to force one into slave labor (please go take a look). Given that we are slapping felony convictions on individuals like Kelly Williams-Bolar, the otherwise law-abiding mother in Ohio who was sent to jail for sending her kids to the wrong school district, we can see just how easy it is for that arbitrary label to be applied.