Modern Day Slavery   2 comments

The 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution states:  “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

I more or less agree with this amendment. I’m the descendent of abolitionists. Slavery and involuntary servitude are unchristian and destructive of liberty and should have been disallowed by the federal constitution a long time before this amendment was passed. I understand why the liberty-minded Founders compromised with the slaveholders, but they were morally wrong to do so.

While I agree with the basic amendment, the phrase “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted” is a problem for me. It’s a narrow exception that allows modern-day involuntary servitude by way of criminal conviction and necessarily encourages discrimination while denying a convicted person “equal protection of the law” as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.

Many states deny felons, even after their punishment has been served, the right to vote, the right to bear arms, the right to serve on a jury, and the right to run for and/or hold public office. The disqualification from most employment that public records disclosures encourages is “cruel and unusual punishment” in violation of the 8th Amendment.

A felon living in the United States of American might as well be a slave – at least then they wouldn’t have to worry about putting food on the table.

Therefore, the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution is unconstitutional law because it allows slavery to exist under a narrow exception for those who have been “duly” convicted for a crime. As such, modern-day slavery, by way of criminal conviction, necessarily encourages discrimination and denies a convicted person “equal protection of the law” guaranteed by the 14th Amendment, i.e. right to vote; 2nd Amendment right to bear arms; jury duty; disqualified from running for and/or holding political office, etc. Modern-day slavery by way of criminal convictions also subjects a convicted person to “cruel and unusual punishment” in violation of the 8th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The 13th Amendment was supposedly designed to outlaw slavery in the United States, but what it actually did was target African Americans for criminal convictions. African Americans have the highest conviction rate of any racial group in the country. That was wrong and should be denounced, but we have a bigger problem today because people of all races and ethnicities are becoming victims of the growing American police state. 

America was founded on the ideal that “all men are created equal”. We haven’t always lived up to that idea. For whatever reason, we seem always to be most comfortable with some group being officially less-than in our society. First it was black slaves, then it was Indians, then it was certain types of immigrants. In the 50s, it was people who held certain political designations. In our modern times, felons are the new “black.” That more of them are black than white perhaps feels justified to a small percentage of us, but increasingly, more whites are becoming felons.

I am not a drug user and do not think anyone needs to or should use drugs, but I see how great a segment of our population is or has been in prison for possessing small quantities of pot and I start to wonder what we think we’re doing as a nation that we’re creating so many felon-slaves. Worse, protest too vigorously at a public gathering and you too could become a felon, denied the right to bear arms, vote, take certain jobs, in some states, even hold a professional license.

It’s fashionable to say that these folks chose to break the law and therefore deserve what they get, but think about what is against the law now that wasn’t 30 years ago. What was not illegal when I was a kid is illegal today. Don’t pitch a fit on a plane if the stewardess treats you like a steer bound for slaughter, because calling her by the name she is earning could be called Assault and depending on how much force you put into those words, it’s a felony.  If you have to pee in the woods, make sure you can’t be seen from the road, because that is public indecency and if a child sees you, it could be sexual assault of a minor (a felony).

Felons are a special class of citizen who are denied natural rights. As the surveillance state and public records disclosure has increased, even felons who managed to become model citizens with no police contact in decades are now being laid-off of jobs they’ve held for years because of new federal guidelines that don’t allow felons to work. Hospitals that accept Medicaid funds cannot employ felons. This resulted in a friend of mine who spent a week in jail 30-odd years ago for selling pot to a cop (a felony that could have carried a year-plus sentence) losing his job as the director of a substance abuse program at a major hospital, a position he’d held for over 10 years. He went into private practice, but he can’t receive Medicaid funds, and his attorney is now researching if ObamaCare will allow him to receive ANY insurance payments. The man has a doctorate in Psychology and a Masters in Social Work and he may not be able to get a job in his field because of something he did when he was 18 years old. By the way, he hasn’t had so much as a traffic ticket in the intervening years.

The United States has the world’s highest incarceration rate. On average, other countries have about 100 prisoners per 100,000 population. The U.S. rate is 500 prisoners per 100,000 residents, or about 1.6 million prisoners in 2010. While 1 out of every 142 Americans is now actually in prison, 1 out of every 32 of us is either in prison or on parole from prison. About 3.1 percent of the total US adult population — 6.7 million adult men and women — are now very non-voluntary servants of the state and many of them cannot get decent jobs, so they are either dependent on the state or involved in criminal activty because legitimate work is not open to them. Lest we turn this into a racial issue, statistics show that among parolees in 2012, 42 percent were black, 39 percent white, 18 percent Hispanic and 1 percent were of other races. Yes, blacks are still incarcerated more often, but the gap is closing.

What do we think we’re doing by creating this permanent underclass and insisting it’s okay because they chose to break the law? Are we crazy?!! Permanent underclasses are ripe fields for revolution and not the sort that leads to liberty for all.

Our Constitution should reflect our values. If we’re serious about that clause in the Declaration “all men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights”, then we need to take a real hard look at the 13th Amendment and fix what’s wrong with it. The Constitution was written to protect the liberty of all American citizens except slaves. The 13th Amendment was meant to correct that odious flaw, except it just redefined who was a slave. We the people of the United States must combat the injustice of modern-day-slavery by protest and holding Congress responsible under Article 5 of the United States Constitution to propose an amendment in place of the unconstitutional 13th Amendment.

All forms of slavery must be abolished.

2 responses to “Modern Day Slavery

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  1. Very interesting post.

    The 13th Amendment really isn’t the problem.

    Government is like a hammer. It is not a very flexible tool; it is just a hammer designed for beating on bad guys. The problem with our government is that it has become too big a hammer. We can’t control it. When we swing at somebody, besides the intended bad guy, we cannot predict who else we might hurt.

    When government gets too big, instead of protecting our rights, politicians start thinking their job is to spend our money. When government gets too big, instead of electing honorable leaders, we start devising ways to make certain our leaders spend our neighbor’s money on us. We stop worrying about who we might hurt.


    • I agree that state coercion writ large is the problem. Society is a balancing act and, pragmatically, government is a necessary tool toward achieving that balance, but we have let our government grow out of our control … except …. This series is about what could be tweaked (through amendment) in the Constitution to reduce that coercion and bring the government back under control.

      There’s a lot of focus on a balanced budget amendment, term limits for Congress amendment, that sort of thing. All worthy efforts. But, we need to be honest and recognize that our past actions have gotten us to this point. Some of those past actions have involved amending the Constitution in ways that have allowed the hammer to grow really big. That clause in the 13th is one because our “criminal justice” system is a huge hammer. It is incredibly easy to become a felon today. About a month ago, this happened in Austin police decided to do a jaywalking crackdown. According to a relative who lives in Austin, she was originally charged with a felony because jaywalking became resisting arrest. My source isn’t sure that the charge has been lowered, though I would think the Austin police would not want the embarrassment, but the fact is —

      You can be arrested for a felony for jaywalking in 21st century America. That boggles the mind!!!

      I definitely have anarchist leanings, but when I apply logic to the situation, I do not see a way to avoid the reality of a state. Human beings are not angels. You have to have some constraints on human behavior if we are going to live in society, otherwise the lions always eat the lambs. The problem is finding a balance where the lions are allowed to pursue their interests, but constrained from eating the lambs. I think the US Constitution came as close to providing that balance as any document has, but it wants amendment. Over the years, amendments that were meant to advance liberty for some individuals also had these hidden purposes for enlarging the government hammer. Where those hammers can be identified, we need to amend the Constitution to remove them while still maintaining the necessary protections.

      Either that or we just hit the reset button and let everything come crashing down … but history should teach us that rarely works out well for liberty.


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