David Shuey
2 min readMar 11, 2017


I need to get this book. Surprisingly, I haven’t seen it in my vast research on this topic. I have felt Ava DuVarney’s The 13th and Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow were missing the mark when it came to basic facts and statistics, so I wrote this in-depth Medium post on mass incarceration and the extreme limits and falsehoods of what John Pfaff calls the “Standard Story”:

“The 13th” and its Glaring Omission: Actual Crime that Mirrors Demographics

While Ava DuVarney’s movie asks important questions on incarceration, it ignores reasons why we lock people up a majority of people in the first place (hint: It’s not drugs)


  1. President Obama has commuted more prison sentences than any president in a century, yet it still only affected a few hundred people. Still, I believe every claim for fairer justice should be met.
  2. Though, public-sector prisons lobby just as hard against the interests of prisoners. And privatized institutions only make up 9% of total prisons — a stat “The 13th” conveniently omits.

Essentially, 1 in 5 people in prison are there for drugs. Certainly, there’s an argument for structural racism in black people being arrested at a higher percentage for drug violations, despite supposed similarities to the white population when it comes to using and selling illegal substances. (Though, whites are not typically using and selling on the street, nor in high crime areas. This reflects poverty more than anything.) Regardless, 20.5% of Federal and State prisoners are there for drug offenses, and far less than 1% are of those are for simple possession. 99.9% of those sentenced to federal prison for any drug-related crime were sent to prison for something more serious than simple possession, according to a 2012 Department of Justice report.



Here’s a quote the New York Times and The Sentencing Project on disparities reversing course, with facts not presented by people comparing the American prison system to “The New Jim Crow”:

“Incarceration rates for black Americans dropped sharply from 2000 to 2009, especially for women, while the rate of imprisonment for whites and Hispanics rose over the same decade, according to a report released Wednesday by a prison research and advocacy group in Washington.

The declining rates for blacks represented a significant shift in the racial makeup of the United States’ prisons and suggested that the disparities that have long characterized the prison population may be starting to diminish.



David Shuey

Writer. Researcher. Designer. Human seeking better outcomes for all. Empiricism, relevant facts, and logical arguments > simple narratives.