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The 13th Amendment to the United Sate Constitution states: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted shall exist within the United States." The legislation signed into law under President Lincoln in 1864 technically abolished slavery accept if one runs afoul of the law in Missouri.

If you are found guilty and incarcerated in prison to do the time for your crime you have no rights and freedoms once the prison doors are slammed shut behind you.

The media has recently focused on Jefferson which is the state capital of Missouri focusing on racial protests because of the shooting death of 18 year old Michael Brown in August in Ferguson by a white police officer, Darren Wilson.

The federal justice department investigation into the Ferguson police force in the wake of the shooting uncovered a municipal justice system rife with racial bias geared more towards generating revenue than concern for the public safety.

The probe showed that between 2012-2014 Blacks accounted for 85% of traffic stops, 90% of the citations and 93% of arrests despite the fact that they made up 67% of the population. The city courts ordered arrest warrants for residents who failed to pay for fines for minor infractions such as traffic tickets and parking violations.

Crime is a multi-billion business in the United where many prisons are run-for-profit-corporations that for the most part are in the rural areas. The majority of the prisoners are Blacks, Hispanics and First Nation males who lived in the city who have run afoul of the law.

Missouri’s prison system cost state taxpayers $680 million in 2014-up from $220 million in 1994 after the state brought in harsh sentencing legislation that curbed early prison release. The prison population has increased nine fold in the past thirty years that are similar to trends across the U.S.

Inmates are assigned mandatory work in the laundry, kitchen prison where they are paid a dollar a day. The canteens offer up expensive packages of cigarettes, personal hygiene products that one can buy on credit. Money owing is added to your bill for extra time to be served in jail.

The United. States is currently the world’s largest jailer, with approximately 2.2 million people behind bars, The cost to the American tax payers was a whopping $80 billion dollars in 2012.

We in Canada under the leadership of Prime Minister Harper the Federal prison system has grown 800% since 1980 with 219,000 people behind bars.

Conrad Black’s excellent autobiography, " A Matter of Principle" was an in-depth glimpse of Conrad’s time in prison and the inequities he found. The inmates who were mostly black, poor and uneducated pleaded guilty because they could not afford legal council to speak on their behalf.

It is long overdue that Americans and Canadians address the unfair sentencing and over crowded prisons that rob too many of our young males the chance to become men, and rob the nation of too many men who could be good fathers and good neighbours.

Slavery was supposed to have ended two hundred years ago but sadly our prison system of incarcerating the poorest in society who are still shackled by the law are punished instead of being helped by the system.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com