From the beginning of its creation, the United States had relied heavily on the physical labor exploitation of African-descended people. While slavery was technically abolished with the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865, the same amendment allowed involuntary servitude as punishment for crime. Now, instead of being explicitly and directly exploited for labor through slavery, African-descended people today are now disproportionately incarcerated to serve a similar purpose as they did in the 17th and 18th centuries. The criminal justice system as it exists today relies heavily on the involuntary servitude to the point that it has become a multi-billion-dollar business.

Strides have been made for African Americans in the United States, yet we still are suffering from the effects of slavery. From over policing to disproportionate prison sentencing, Black people in the United States are being funneled right back into the system they are said to be free from. The only way for African Americans to be free under American standards is to have all their needs met that would make it possible to choose. This would include social programs, public healthcare, ensured housing, food and other necessities.

While this is an argument for maintaining the prison system as it exists today, I am also arguing that for African-descended people to be completely free, prisons must be abolished entirely. For that to work successfully, we must shift from this individualistic, capitalist way of functioning towards an intentional, communal way of living and thinking. Through prison abolition and ensuring that everyone has what they need to live, the United States can somewhat pay back what African-descended people are owed.


McBride, Lee




Applied Ethics | Civil Rights and Discrimination | Courts | Ethics and Political Philosophy | Human Rights Law | Law and Gender | Law and Philosophy | Law and Race | Law and Society | Other Philosophy


prison abolition, abolition, slavery, convict lease system, philosophy, legal philosophy, prison, prisons, racism, race, gender, unjust, incarceration

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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