Guest writer Marianne Teresa Ruud.
Supplemental Material for Lessons and Teaching in the Classroom of the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, the Abolishment of Slavery and the Practice of Modern Day Slavery in the American Prison System
- Read the material provided with the links you find here, and watch the video below.
- What are your initial thoughts?
- How does this compare to your country?
- What is a life sentence in North America?
- Had you heard about the movement MYLIFEMATTERSTOO and what does it mean?
- Recycled Soups, a project my students carried out looking at food corruption in the prison system. Recycled Soups | Facebook
- Choose one or more of the articles you read, who are the people behind it, and what are their stories? Write an investigative article that you share on your blog.
My name is Marianne Teresa Ruud and I am an English teacher at an upper secondary school in Norway, Nannestad vgs. My students and I began our work with those on the inside in the American prison system in the Spring of 2014. My students range in ages from fifteen to nineteen which are the same ages of those we work with who went in with life and one individual who was sentenced at nineteen to death. Our work started when one of my female student’s brother took his own life one week before Christmas in 2013 due to bullying. At that time, my classes were in debates on topics such as Euthanasia and abortion. When my female student lost her brother to suicide, we expanded our research to look at how young people experience life and death. You can read more about our story on the Walk In Those Shoes link below, a book publisher in Virginia putting out the books written by those on the inside. Those behind bars do not like to be called inmates or prisoners. They wish to be addressed as the incarcerated and/or those on the inside.
We spent about six years in a comprehensive and collaborative project with juveniles in American prisons called Young Kids Hard Time. Our current work is called MYLIFEMATTERSTOO, an initiative founded by Quentin Jones #302373 of the Michigan Department of Corrections, serving life without parole who was sentenced at eighteen. Every individual who serves time behind bars has a number attached to his or her name. They lose their identities as citizens and the majority of them who serve hard time lose their social security numbers. Their prison number is their only “registered” identity. Like many African Americans who are serving time, Mr. Jones was exposed to poverty and gang violence. We work with Terrence Graham (Graham v Floridam- 2010) US Supreme Court Ruling for Juveniles Life Without Parole for nonviolent crimes. Terrence is buried deep in the Florida Dept. of Corrections in solitary confinement. His family was homeless and his parents were Cocaine addicts. We work with women in the system serving life, many who have been victims of domestic violence. (Trine Garnett – Garnett v Pennsylvania was the U.S. Supreme Court Ruling in 2012 making it unlawful to put children away for life.) She is incarcerated in Pennsylvania (Lady Lifers), in her sixties, sentenced at the age of fourteen after years of excessive abuse and intellectually disabled, who now has Multiple Sclerosis. We work as well with the women from the Huron Facility in Michigan. We worked with Bobby James Moore (Moore v Texas ruling of 2016) who sat on death row for 40 years, sentenced at the age of nineteen, and was released in August of 2020 making it unlawful to put to death those who cannot read or write and thus cannot defend themselves during a trial.
You will find our work in the links listed below. We put out a quarterly newsletter that contains the stories and contributions of those on the inside. In addition to our work, I have included several essays written by Ricardo Ferrell, a senior writer for the newsletter. His story can be found in the December issue, link provided below. Another contribution reflecting on modern-day slavery in the prison system is written by Quentin Jones. Mr. Ferrell has also contributed with an essay as to why so many blacks are serving time in the American prison system.
We worked with 84-year old “Baby Lawrence” who after more than 60 years in prison passed away at the Gus Harrison Facility in Adrian, Michigan, on December 27th due to complications brought on by Covid. Thousands in the prison system have been infected and hundreds have died.
I have also included a Facebook page we created called Recycled Soups when we studied food corruption in the prison system. Many private contractors are used to serve food, provide clothing, commissary items to name a few. They skim off of the rightful portions and quality every person has a right to and make large profits off of this. Read more about prison food culture on the Facebook page. This project was carried out by our vocational students studying Restaurant and Food Processing.
Here are our Fall and December issues of our newsletters. The Fall issue is devoted to bullying and the December issue to those who have been serving decades in America’s prisons. Our first issue for this year, 2021, will address solitary confinement.
We are putting together a webpage that hopefully will be finished by the first half of this year.
The Evolution of Slavery
By Quentin Jones, Michigan Department of Corrections, MDOC
Mr. Jones was sentenced at the age of eighteen to life without parole which is to die in prison.
In the State of Michigan everyone serving time in prison is required to have and maintain a work detail unless one has a medical exemption. If a person refuses to work, that individual will be placed on unemployment status which is a sanction that confines a person to their cell for eight hours out of the day. Simply put, WORK OR BE PUNISHED! I find this to resemble a practice that should no longer exist. The reality is chattel slavery has evolved into mass incarceration. This country was built off of the free labor of Blacks and minorities and centuries later America is still profiting off of the free/cheap labor of Blacks and minorities. Currently, I have a work detail that pays eight dollars a month. The irony in that is I make less money than the State gives the prisoners who are indigent. How is it that I have a work detail and I make less than the eleven dollars that is given to indigent prisoners? It would be logical to think that a person with a work detail would at least make eleven dollars a month.
Even if that were the case, with the 50% cumulative mark up on commissary items, and the inflated phone rates a person would not be able to buy the necessities or call their family. The cost of living is steadily rising, but the wages we are paid for our hard labor remain the same. The MDOC has not raised the pay rates in over thirty years. With a 2.2 billion dollar annual budget, the MDOC could double the estimated two million dollars it spends on paying those who work while serving time in prison and still only be spending a minute fraction of the budget. Some may argue that men and women having and maintaining a job while incarcerated is rehabilitative but as a person who has spent the last twenty-one years being forced to work for slave wages, I find this cruel practice to be dehumanizing and punitive rather than rehabilitative. Honestly, this is a perpetuation of the extreme poverty that I experienced living in society. AMERICA SAID THAT SLAVERY IS OVER! I’m sure that everyone being forced to work in the MDOC, would strongly disagree with that notion. Then again, the 13th amendment of the U.S. Constitution makes it legal to enslave those who are duly convicted of a crime. So, in all actuality what they did was change the name, hence, MASS INCARCERATION!