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March 2024 Issue [Readings]

Department of Corrections

From the inaugural issue of The Insiders Zine, which was published in 2022 and posted to the Internet Archive in December 2023.

There seems to be an ongoing debate as to what those of us who are incarcerated should be called. Referring to us as “prisoners” seems to be as unpopular as “inmates” does. Some even try “errants,” “cons,” “convicts,” “felons,” “reprobates,” “jailbirds,” and even “internees.” But none of those are any better. Some are downright insulting. “Incarceree?” That has such a terrible ring to it. Stop trying to get cute with it. Let us see what the U.S. Constitution has to say about it. The Thirteenth Amendment says, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Well now, that just seems to settle the debate, does it not? I’m not saying that all of us behind these walls are lovely flowers or nothing, but why call a rose by any other name and expect it to smell so sweet? Until this “Exception Clause” is removed from the Constitution and it reads, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction,” then call us what we are. Call us slaves.

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March 2024

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