Did the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution Completely Abolish Slavery?

Every American learns in school that the 13th Amendment to the Constitution ended slavery in the United States. But the history of involuntary servitude didn't end in 1865, when the amendment was ratified and adopted. People who have been convicted of a crime can still be legally forced to work because the 13th Amendment permits slavery or involuntary servitude "as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted." And since the mid-1800s, U.S. states have done just that, compelling prison inmates to work in a variety of settings to help offset the costs of housing them. This has ranged from contracting inmates out as work crews to having prisoners work in on-site shops to produce marketable goods. For the most part, prison inmates are not paid well, if at all. Across the country, the average daily pay for an inmate is between $0.93 and $4.93 USD, although in some states they receive no monetary compensation at all. And under the rulings that have resulted from interpretations of the 13th Amendment, prisons are within their rights to punish inmates who refuse to work.

The big exception to the 13th Amendment:

  • In 1871, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled in Ruffin v. Commonwealth that prisoners are "slaves of the State."

  • Prison-based compulsory labor in the United States generates at least $2 billion USD per year in goods and services.

  • The United States has the world's largest prison population, with nearly 2.3 million incarcerated people.

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More Info: Newsweek

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