The 13th Amendment & Mass Incarceration

By Hassan Shabazz

As we explore the 13th Amendment and its application as well as the fallback which has resulted in mass incarceration (modern day slavery), we must also delve into how this Amendment to the Constitution is in violation of every citizens Universal Human Rights, especially the so called “American Negro” who through chattel slavery were freed into conditions of poverty and disenfranchisement which caused many of them to be placed back into slavery/involuntary servitude, and still does today.

The 13th Amendment states:

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime whereof the person shall have been duly convicted shall exist within the United States or any place subject to its jurisdiction.”

This Amendment has been the subject of many conversations pertaining to mass incarceration and the prison labor industry, but was not been addressed is how this amendment of the U.S. Constitution is in direct conflict with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I will expound on this conflict, but first a little history.

On December 10, 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Following this Historic Act the Assembly called upon all member countries to publicize the text of the Declaration and “to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, and read and expounded principally is schools and other educational institutions without distinction based on political status of countries or territories.”

Now, for anyone who has never rear the Universal Declaration of Human Rights it is incumbent as a sentient being that you do so to be aware of the rights which are universally accepted and recognized by human beings all over the planet. This sets the stage for you incorporation into the international and cosmopolitan community. The Preamble to his document explains the purpose of such a Declaration, and the 30 articles that follow address a wide array of subjects, all necessary to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.

For those who are defendants of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade (Black Holocaust) where over 100 million Blacks died via this crime against humanity, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights holds a very species dial place in the pursuit of our total and complete liberation. In my previous article entitled “Behind Poverty Lines” I address how the 13th Amendment is connected to modern day slavery in the form of the prison labor industry, and how the criminalization of poverty out o chattel slavery has led to the state of mass incarceration that we face today. This only scratches the surface, for we are human beings before anything else, therefore our rights as such must be enforced that we may enjoy the liberties which should be granted to all human beings on the planet earth.

As human beings a prisoner deserves even the most basic human rights, and since slavery is one of the most debased things that one human being can force upon another, the status of prisoners under the 13th Amendment must be scrutinized. For those who opposed slavery, abolitionists never talked of reforming slavery. Freedom fighters never talked of reforming Jim Crow. They fought to abolish these things. Well the truth is that the 13th Amendment did in fact reform slavery as it was abolished “except as a punishment for crime.” This means that it has not been completely abolished and in order to do so we would have to abolish prisons, (but more on that later).

As member of the United Nations General Assembly, the United States of America ha pledged to uphold and enforce the articles given within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but America has been and proceeds to be in violation of the very declaration that the country has sworn to uphold through its ratification of the 13th Amendment. Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

“No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall prohibited in all their forms.”

Because the United States allows slavery by way of the 13th Amendment which states that slavery shall be abolished except as a punishment for a crime whereof the person shall have been duly convicted, it is in direct violation of “Article 4” of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. So how can the United States both enforce the Constitution (namely the 13th Amendment) and also be a member of the United Nations General Assembly when its proclamation condemns the very act of slavery which is sanctioned by the constitution?

There is no doubt that the Human Rights Declaration outright prohibits atrocities such as the Black Holocaust, but somehow the 13th Amendment which supposedly put an end to that crime against humanity, that actually reformed slavery, has flown under the radar. So what is the solution?

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