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Sun Nov 25, 2012, 08:23 PM

Chris Hedges: Why Mass Incarceration Defines Us As a Society

Why Mass Incarceration Defines Us As a Society
Bryan Stevenson, the winner of the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award in social justice, has taken his fight all the way to the Supreme Court

By Chris Hedges
Smithsonian magazine, December 2012

It is late in the afternoon in Montgomery. The banks of the Alabama River are largely deserted. Bryan Stevenson and I walk slowly up the cobblestones from the expanse of the river into the city. We pass through a small, gloomy tunnel beneath some railway tracks, climb a slight incline and stand at the head of Commerce Street, which runs into the heart of Alabama’s capital. The walk was one of the most notorious in the antebellum South.

“This street was the most active slave-trading space in America for almost a decade,” Stevenson says. Four slave depots stood nearby. “They would bring people off the boat. They would parade them up the street in chains. White plantation owners and local slave traders would get on the sidewalks. They’d watch them as they went up the street. Then they would follow behind up to the circle. And that is when they would have their slave auctions.

“Anybody they didn’t sell that day they would keep in these slave depots,” he continues.

We walk past a monument to the Confederate flag as we retrace the steps taken by tens of thousands of slaves who were chained together in coffles. The coffles could include 100 or more men, women and children, all herded by traders who carried guns and whips. Once they reached Court Square, the slaves were sold. We stand in the square. A bronze fountain with a statue of the Goddess of Liberty spews jets of water in the plaza.

“Montgomery was notorious for not having rules that required slave traders to prove that the person had been formally enslaved,” Stevenson says. “You could kidnap free black people, bring them to Montgomery and sell them. They also did not have rules that restricted the purchasing of partial families.” .............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/Why-Mass-Incarceration-Defines-Us-As-a-Society-179994441.html#ixzz2DHslghzc

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Reply Chris Hedges: Why Mass Incarceration Defines Us As a Society (Original post)
marmar Nov 2012 OP
iemitsu Nov 2012 #1

Response to marmar (Original post)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 11:48 PM

1. Bryan Stevenson deserves much credit for the work he has done

exposing problems with the sentencing of young offenders and for helping many young offenders trapped by the Criminal Justice system in the United States.
His introduction, connecting American historical and legal attitudes toward enslaved children to our current imprisonment of inordinate numbers of minority youth, is convincing. While the article does not articulate how those attitudes left Alabama and found their way into every corner of the United Sates, I suspect that Stevenson could answer that too.
i believe that Stevenson is correct when he suggests that our incarceration rates define us. And the definition is not one of which to be proud.

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