Here's how the 13th Amendment allows companies make a dubious profit off the backs of prisoners.
The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolished slavery—but it still remains legal under one condition. The amendment reads: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." Today in America, big corporations profit of cheap prison labor in both privatized and state-run prisons. Shaka Senghor knows this second wave of slavery well—he spent 19 years in jail, working for a starting wage of 17 cents per hour, in a prison where a 15-minute phone call costs between $3-$15. In this video, he shares the exploitation that goes on in American prisons, and how the 13th Amendment allows slavery to continue. He also questions the profit incentive to incarcerate in this country: why does America represent less than 5% of the world's population, but almost 25% of the world's prisoners? Shaka Senghor's latest venture is Mind Blown Media.
Shaka spent nearly two decades in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder, and spent 7 of those years in solitary confinement. But he says that it's life after prison that can be much more shocking.
Shaka Senghor spent 19 years in jail — 7 of those in solitary confinement — after pleading guilty to second-degree murder. It gave him time to think extensively about the nature of prison system itself and why so many African-American men are incarcerated. He also found that it doubly failed him once he left prison. The world had changed enormously since 1991, and he almost wasn't ready for a digital culture (not least one that required you to say you'd committed a felony when applying for an apartment or a job, as all inmates are required to do). In this video, he tells us that the system is designed for failure once you get out as mental illness is left untreated in prison, and combined with the Department of Correction's inability or refusal to assist prisoners after they leave, often sends former inmates right back to jail. The day that Shaka left he was told he'd be back within six months. Luckily for us, he proved both them and the system itself wrong. Shaka's latest venture is Mind Blown Media.
In 1991, Shaka Senghor pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and spent the next 19 years behind bars, seven of them in solitary confinement. Today, six years out of jail, Senghor has become a vocal advocate for prison reform, and tackling the problem of mass incarceration, in all its complex ugliness, head on.
Senghor’s memoir, Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death and Redemption in an American Prison, was released in March 2016 and debuted on The New York Times Best Seller List as well as The Washington Post Best Seller List. An unforgettable tale of forgiveness and second chances, Writing My Wrongs reminds us that our worst deeds don't define who we are or what we can contribute to the world.
Shaka’s interview with Oprah Winfrey, who called her conversation with him one of the best she has ever had, aired in 2016. His TED talk has over a million views, and he has become one of the most prominent faces of a celebrity-backed national initiative called #cut50, which is seeking to cut the staggering two million-strong American prison population in half over the next 10 years.
Shaka’s story has inspired thousands and serves as a powerful testament to the power of hope, compassion and unconditional love.