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Mecca Gladney

Dr. Craig Wynne

English 102


Reconstructing the 13th Amendment

Barack Obama once said, So let's look at the statistics, United States is home to 5% of

the worlds population, but 25% of the worlds prisoners. Think about that. The 13th

Amendment ended slavery, but the struggle is not over, because language in that same

amendment still undermines the equal humanity of more than 7 million Americans who have

been convicted of a crime. According to Figure 1, 2.3 million people are confined in the United

States for different reasons. The Amendment, ratified at the end of the Civil War, abolished

slavery, with one critical exception: Slavery remained lawful as a punishment for crime whereof

the party shall have been duly convicted. In other words, if you get convicted of even the

smallest crime, there is nothing in the 13th Amendment that ensures you cant be considered a

slave of the state. In society, we often hear about how this negatively affects lives, but what can

we do to make sure that nobody is considered a slave of the state? Stopping the idea of unequal

rights takes more than individuals fighting cases in courtrooms. It requires a strategic plan that

focuses on abolishing slavery for all individuals and not just certain groups of individuals. The

currently policy uses language that makes it easy to undermine equality for all, abuse the idea

and reinstitute slavery under another disguise and does not guarantee that all persons cannot be

considered as slaves. As an alternative, I recommend that lawmakers reconstruct the 13th

Amendment, but excluding except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been

duly convicted. By reconstructing the Amendment, all persons, convicted of a crime or not
convicted of a crime, can be fully protected without the language of the Amendment being


Many situations have happened after the 13th Amendment was ratified. In 1866, just one

year after the Civil War ended, a black man convicted of theft in Maryland was advertised for

sale in the local newspaper(USA

Today). This man was put up for

sale, which was not illegal after

the 13th Amendment was ratified,

because he was labeled a

criminal. This situation is just one

of many to happen to people who

are considered criminals. Not

only can criminals still be considered as slaves to the state, but they are also forced to work

against their will. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, prisoners who work are paid $0.12-

$0.40 per hour. The amendment has generally been interpreted to bar legal challenges to unpaid

or minimally paid prison labor. This is unacceptable. It is time for lawmakers to protect all

people, including criminals, from being denied their full dignity and valued as an enslaved

person. This can effectively be done by reconstructing the 13th Amendment and excluding the

exception that is made for criminals.

Requiring lawmakers to change the 13th Amendment is beneficial in a number of ways.

Reconstructing the Amendment will reinforce the idea that slavery is illegal and there are no

exceptions to it. It will also help criminals realize that they are no different than anyone else and

will be protected by laws 100% just as all other citizens would be. Studies show that the
language of the Amendment left room for a disguise slavery: They would not call it slavery, but

some other name. Slavery has been fruitful in giving itself names It has been called by great

many names, and it will call itself by yet another name; you and I and all of us better wait and

see(DeBerry). This verifies that the language in the 13th Amendment can be undermined and

reinstitute slavery under another disguise. By reconstructing the exception in the Amendment,

criminals who suffer from this exception and are negatively impacted will have the opportunity

to finally believe that they are equal to individuals who are not considered criminals. Lastly, the

change in the Amendment will show people that all slavery is illegal and there are no exceptions.

A policy change regarding the 13th Amendment is necessary within the Constitution.

Changing the language of the Amendment will help criminals be safe under all laws and feel

comfortable within society. Additionally, it is likely that the language of the Amendment will no

longer be undermined, and slavery within the prison system will be changed. In order to put an

end to the exception of the 13th Amendment, we can exclude the exception in the Amendment

and make the language more straightforward, so that it cannot be abused in ways that will

reinvent slavery.

Work Cited
DeBerry, Jarvis. "'13th' Documentary Shows Black People Migrating from Slavery to Prison."

Google. Google, n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2017.

Initiative, Prison Policy. "Section III: The Prison Economy." Section 3 The Prison Economy -

Prison Labor - Prison Index | Prison Policy Initiative. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2017.

"Yep, Slavery Is Still Legal: Column." Google. Google, n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2017.