The 13th Documentary Analysis

The 13th Documentary Analysis

Student’s name

Institution of affiliation




The 13th Documentary Analysis

The 13th is a film that discusses the story of the black people within American society and how that is a grave issue as a lot of American black people have suffered a lot at the hands of the whites. The movie is called the 13th documentary because it looks back at the time in America when slavery was allowed and in fact in the articles of confederation and the initial constitution slavery was allowed and whites were allowed to own slaves. This means that the American system has never been pleasant to the American black people and those who are African Americans. The major question of the film is whether Africans will ever be free to equal the freedom that the white people have and which they enjoy. This paper discusses the film in light of mass incarceration which is a major practice in the American society brought out in the film.

Firstly, the film begins by describing how hard it was for Americans to live to be slaves in the time of the past. There were courageous people in the history of African American history and these are the ones responsible for the many new changes which have happened and in a positive way to the American black community. However, they did not find it easy and they had to suffer for the cause they were fighting for (Juarez, 2018). The documentary is called the 13th about the 13th amendment of 1865 which states that the black person had the free right to whatever right the white person had. Before 1865 black people were exposed to slavery and they were owned by the whites. The 13th amendment gave them rights and placed them in an annual place with the whites. However, the big question in the 13th amendment is whether declaring black people were free made them free in practice.

With the 13th amendment, the black people were assumed free but in a real sense the American society did not want them to b free, and therefore they were not free. After the amendment, black people could be incarcerated for very little offense and this was seen as totally okay by the whites. When blacks were declared free the whites began developing jails and correctional facilities and this was meant for the white population (Neubauer, & Fradella, 2018). Therefore, this was the beginning of unfair incarceration and the animosity which even today exists between the black people and the police. This was also the beginning of mass incarceration as a lot of black people were getting arrested for the smallest mistakes they did. This practice which is still being practiced today is what has contributed to America being the one lace with the highest level of convicts as for every 4 males one of them is in prison or has been to prison. This is a worrying trend.

According to the film America can be best described through the retributive justice system. This is the system that has been used in American for a long period even though it is used to treat black people justly. The retributive theory of punishment suggests that every person who does wrong to society or another person should undergo the same pain or the same circumstances and therefore justice is restored. When a person does wrong, they should suffer an equal amount of pain they caused. This is the major justice theory used in America and a lot of people have embraced it as when a person does wrong to society the person should suffer in a similar manner (Platt, 2019). However, the issue of the death penalty has been controversial and a lot of states have abolished it while some uphold it as they are not sure if having such kind of law makes the retributive theory a good way to go. This has been focused on in the movie in a great way.

The movie as it is suggested that the United States of America move towards rehabilitation as a form of justice. This is because according to the film rehabilitation and changing the behavior of the individuals who are involved in crime is a very important part of changing society and making it better. Therefore, if rehabilitation was to be used the society could be better and grow into an accommodative society with time. Rehabilitation is a theory that states that the people who are found guilty should be assisted to change and fit back into society well. Rehabilitation as understood in layman’s language is majorly an expensive exercise and a lot of people tend to fall back once they are out of rehabilitation. However, if well employed it can help a lot of offenders get away from doing what is wrong.

The film is a very strong one and discusses the issue of incarceration with a concentration on black male incarceration to a great deal. It states that incarceration for blacks is a big problem and because of this many black people still live in fear in a country they build. From the film, I learned that back people have a history of being hurt in the United States of America and that has come down from their slave ancestors to the current generation (Platt, 2019). The Justice system needs to be reconsidered to reduce the number of people in jails. Those with few or very few offenses should not be in jail but should be given other types of punishment.


Juarez, S. E. (2018). The Power of the Documentary: Examining the Effectiveness of Ava DuVernay’s 13th. Synesthesia, 8(1), 2.

Neubauer, D. W., & Fradella, H. F. (2018). America’s courts and the criminal justice system. Cengage Learning.

Platt, T. (2019). Beyond these walls: Rethinking crime and punishment in the United States. St. Martin’s Press.