We Are Not Slaves: Rethinking the Rise of Carceral States through the Lens of the Prisoners’ Rights Movement

ROBERT T. CHASE
JOURNAL OF AMERICAN HISTORY 102.1 (2015): 73-86

This essay is part of a roundtable of several contributions of the current volume of the JAH concerning the question of incarceration in the United States. The article is an especially poignant review of the difficult circumstances within which a seemingly ever growing prison population finds itself, subject to severe restrictions even of the ability to seek redress once convicted, with the capacity to file petitions and appeals often severely curtailed by prison administrators. This essay reviews one such incident but extrapolates further to consider the impact overall of such limitations of prisoners rights on poorer and ethnically diverse segments of the larger population. The article raises troubling questions about the degree to which prisoners should be divested of legal protections, asking how far is too far, and to what degree we are creating a new substrata of the unfree.