Slavery Is Still Legal and Black Labor Is Still Free


The private (business) and public (government) sectors do not even try to hide their intentions.  In other words, “Find us some black bodies or we will file suit against you.”  The government incarcerates black people and contracts them out as if it were 1816 instead of 2016.  Many Americans are under the impression slavery ended in 1865, about 151 years ago.  The 13th Amendment of the United States Constitution says otherwise.  The Amendment says, “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.”  What this means is legislation can be passed giving local, state, and federal government the authority to arrest, convict, and use its citizens as slaves just as they did 151 years ago.  This is how the Prison Industrial Complex came into existence.  Drugs were pushed into inner city neighborhoods, drug legislation was passed, and prisons were built. The industry became so popular organizations ceased the opportunity to make billions from free labor.  Private prisons were also built and contracts between the private sector and government agencies were signed.  The agreement was to keep private prisons filled to approximately 70 percent capacity.  For example, if private prisons have 65 percent of their beds filled, states are required to pay these organizations for empty beds.  Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and The GEO Group are worth about $70 billion.  Organizations such as Global-Tel-Link provide phone service, charging roughly $15 for a 15-minute call.  Corizon is a healthcare provider who makes about $1.4 billion a year.  This seems to be quite similar to the “convict lease system” formed after slavery ended.  Black people were incarcerated and leased out to work for railway companies, mining companies, and farming plantations.  In turn, states were paid for black labor.  Frederick Douglass, said, “the convict lease system” exploited the punishment clause to subvert the noble intent of the 13th Amendment.”  It appears the clause has always been used just as intended.  So the question is, do we change laws or do we eradicate the “punishment clause” in the Constitution?   Is the issue prison reform or the punishment clause?  As long as the punishment clause is included in the Constitution history will continue to repeat itself.  Black people will continue to be exploited for financial gain whenever the financial need arises.


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Public Note:  The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own, others who comment, and do not reflect the view of USA Today, or any of their affiliates or partners.  Photo from Brennan Center for Justice

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