Oshinsky claimed that the farm penal system is worse than slavery because , the farm system was derived from the plantation model of imprisonment. An overall philosophy of punishment that rooted from racist assumptions regarding the abilities of the black prisoners in the South (Fisher-Giorlando , 2012, p. 1). The farm system is basically a combination of incarceration and working on a plantation as a slave. This system possesses elements of agricultural work, the population of black workers, neglect of rehabilitation, plantation mentality, isolation, the worthlessness of the prisoners and emphasis on the the economy (Forster, 1995 as quoted from Fisher-Giorlando , 2012). The condition in which the black convicts are at in farm system can be described as similar to sweat a shop made worst by incarceration. It is basically a classification system with a purpose of separating the convicts according to race, gender, age and severity of the crime. The classification scheme was drawn from the same philosophy of antebellum slave owners, where older and many able men are allocated for heavier work, while women and children are designated to lighter tasks.
In terms of corporal punishment, common Southern slave plantation practices were being imposed. There was a belief that in order to discipline blacks, physical punishment is the only adequate way of doing it. In Mississippi, leather straps also known as “black Annie” were often used for whipping (Fisher-Giorlando , 2012, p. 3). Going back to Oshinsky's claim about about the farm system, he made such claim based on racial disparities in incarceration and maltreatment of leased prisoners. It is worse than slavery because being a slave means having a pinch of freedom left, being a slave an incarcerated at the same time is far more degrading (O’Brien Wagner, 2012, p. 2-6). There are stories of relentless neglect and brutality of convicts working on plantations. There were instances that they were left to sleep on bare ground. Furthermore, labor incompetence was given a corresponding price of punishment (Oshinsky, 2004, p. 9). Five to ten lashes for being slow, not doing it right and mishandling crops. In addition, unsanitary conditions of the convict cage described with overflowing buckets of waste, bloodstained dirt floors and vermin-covered walls constituted several illnesses leading to high mortality rates (Oshinsky, 2004, p. 9).
There is no arguing in Oshinsky's position regarding the maltreatment and the racial disparities in incarceration of African Americans because even though slavery has long been ended, such disparities still exist in the modern world. There are evidences of racial disproportionality in admitting African-Americans in state prisons. Sorensen , Hope And Stemen (2003) conducted a study about race disproportionality in Midwest prisons. The research concluded that the Midwest State and the South have higher incarceration of blacks as compared to other states. The research also presented a comparison of incarcerated whites against blacks and found that the population ratio of incarcerated African-Americans are 16.2% higher than whites (Sorensen , Hope And Stemen , 2003, p. 8).
The data suggest that there is an evidence of post-arrest discrimination in the aforementioned regions of the United States. Sociologist argues about the prevailing inequality in the justice system of America as shown in the imprisonment rate disparities. Before the turn of the new millennium the number of blacks in federal penitentiaries in custody already reached 800,00 and continued to increase by 11.3% annually (Wacquant, 2001, p. 3). In 2005, the Bureau of Justice Statistics revealed that the rate of African-American incarceration varies according to state, accentuating the the theory that the Midwest and South imprisons more black than as compared to other states. In Mississippi for example, the ratio of inmates by race is three blocks to eery one white inmate (Mauer And King , 2007, p. 10). The correlation between a region and ratio of incarcerated blacks gives an element of the legacy of discrimination on African-Americans in the regions where populations of black inmates are high (Mauer , 2011, p. 88).
Court jurisdiction is another reason for racial disparities in terms of punishment decisions. Social context explains the variation in punishment decisions, concluding a theory that court decisions with high rate of imprisoned African-Americans are influenced by the social context of racial discrimination (Britt , 2000, p. 21). Furthermore, disparities in imprisonment are also rooted in social characteristics of every region in America (Bridges, 1988, p. 714). In relation to Oshinsky's arguments, history provides justification for the existence of racial disparities caused by social discrimination rooted from 19th century slavery and justice system (Mauer , 1999, p. 6). Another depressing fact about the history is the inclusion of children and women in the same incarceration principles. It can be recalled that slaves regardless of age and gender are being leased to plantation owners as part of the farm penal system.
In the modern era, African-American children and women are also subject to the same racial disparities. Youth from certain race groups experience the brunt of disproportionate incarceration and arrests because the justice system looks into juvenile cases based on color. Disproportionate sentencing often seen as imposing decisions and punishment for juveniles with the same gravity as those being imposed on legal aged convicts. Other disparities include racial profiling, mandatory minimums and inadequate legal representation (Yeakey , 2002, p. 97). The same situation can be seen in the growth of imprisonment rate in women averaging from 3-6.4% annually (Cheney-Lind, p. 7). Other reasons for racial disparities also relate to social status, lack of education and poverty. Studies revealed that African-Americans have higher tendencies of being indicted, arrested, convicted and committed to the federal penitentiaries as compared to white Americans that commit the same weight of the offense (And the Poor Get Prison, p. 111-112).
Bridges, G. S. (1988). Law, Social Standing and Racial Disparities in Imprisonment. Social Forces, 66(3), 714.
Britt, C. L. (2000). Social context and racial disparities in punishment decisions. Justice Quarterly, 17(4), 21.
Chapter 3: And the Poor Get Prison. 111-112.
Cheney-Lind, M. (n.d.). Reading 2, Women in Prison: From Partial Justice to Vengeful Equity. The Forgotten Offender, 7.
Fisher-Giorlando, M. (2012). Plantation Prisons. Encyclopedia of Prisons & Correctional Facilities, 1-3.
Mauer, M., & King, R. S. (2007). Uneven Justice: State Rates of Incarceration By Race and Ethnicity. The Sentencing Project, 10.
Mauer, M. (2011). Addressing Racial Disparities in Incarceration. The Prison Journal, 9(3), 88.
Mauer, M. (1999). The Crisis of the Young African American Male and the Criminal Justice System. The Sentencing Project, 6.
Oshinsky, D. (2004). Forced labor in the 19th Century South. The Story of Parchman Farm, 9.
O’Brien Wagner, N. (2012). Slavery by Another Name History Background. Twin Cities Public Television, 2-6.
Sorensen, J., Hope, R., & Stemen, D. (2003). Racial disproportionality in state prison admissions: Can regional variation be explained by differential arrest rates? Journal of Criminal Justice, 31, 8.
Wacquant, L. (2001). Deadly Symbiosis : When Ghetto and Prison Meet and Mesh. Punishment & Society, 3(95), 3. doi:10.1177/14624740122228276.
Yeakey, C. C. (2002). America's Disposable Children: Setting the Stage. Journal of Negro Education, 71(3), 97. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3211229.