Feb. 18, 2021

Convict Leasing, Who Pays America For White Supremacy Turning The Table On The 13th Amendment?

An 1887 report by the Hinds County, Mississippi grand jury recorded that, six months after 204 convicts were leased to a man named McDonald, twenty were dead, nineteen had escaped, and twenty-three had been returned to the penitentiary disabled, ill, and near death. The penitentiary hospital was filled with sick and dying Black men whose bodies bore “marks of the most inhuman and brutal treatment . . . so poor and emaciated that their bones almost come through the skin.”100 Under this grotesquely cruel system that lasted decades, countless Black men, women, and children lost their freedom—and often their lives. “Before convict leasing officially ended,” writes historian David Oshinsky, “a generation of Black prisoners would suffer and die under conditions far worse than anything they had ever experienced as slaves.” Convict leasing demonstrated the way in which the criminal justice system would become the central institution for sustaining racial domination and hierarchy in America. It legitimized excessive punishment and abuse of African Americans and terrorized people of color.
Equal Justice Initiative