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This is the most poorly reasoned piece I have read on Substack.

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You write (presumably referring to the U.S.) "Slavery ended in December of 1865" but later claim "Slavery lasted over 400 years in the US."

Are you claiming that slavery began before 1485, or that it didn't end in 1865 (in the U.S.) as you begin your article?

Slavery (and involuntary servitude) ended in the U.S. because of the (Dec. 6, 1865) 13th Amendment, but the amendment specifically precludes "except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted," thus the amendment specifically exempts what you are here complaining about (prisoners forced to work).

That said, there is much wrong with the American penal system, which your article just begins to scratch the surface.

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Please read a book or 3, challenge your presumptions and be more curious

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You share many valid points, Louise, but I think you lose some with a few questionable facts and missing contributing factors.

Firstly, the US was formed in 1776, and not accepted as its own country until the end of the Revolutionary War in 1791. Slavery ended in 1865. So slavery lasted about 89 years in the US, not over 400. Even if we allow for the time when the colonies were technically part of England, the first slaves arrived in 1619, meaning 246 years, again not over 400. This might seem like nitpicking, but false facts will drive potentially sympathetic readers away. Of course, none of that minimizes the horrible impact of slavery in any way, it's just meant to serve as clarification.

Secondly, the greater numbers of prisoners you cite over periods of time are caused by numerous things which must be taken into account. For one, the population has grown exponentially in America, from about 3 million (including Native Americans) in 1776 to over 330 million today. That surely carries over to the number of prisoners. Also, technology and investigative techniques have evolved continuously since the times of low prisoner numbers you cite, greatly adding to the number of offenders who were caught and imprisoned as the years passed.

Thirdly, regarding the apparent racial disparity of prisoners, while blacks have a disproportionately large representation of the prison population, they also commit a disproportionately large percentage of violent crimes. They are about 12% of the population, but commit over 50% of violent offenses. Though there are undeniably contributing factors which cause such disparity, many of which might certainly be racially affected, it doesn't change those facts.

Fourthly, you state that "the prison system is still a form of legalized slavery for minorities". You then focus on the disgusting conditions suffered by inmates in the 1800s, and by slaves during that time, all relevant and true. But you give little to no mention of today's conditions to support the initial statement.

None of this is meant to minimize the terrible treatment blacks have historically received in this country, or to condone it in any way. Our prison system is surely flawed in many ways, and you are correct to point them out. Just be careful of losing your audience by not painting a fuller picture.

All the best, ZL

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