The 13th Amendment of the American Constitution, the amendment that abolished slavery, was ratified in 1865. This is why is it so alarming that the American Correctional Association (ACA), the country’s largest trade organization for prison and jails, recently passed a resolution that urges the repeal of the amendment’s “exclusion clause”: “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.”
This clause, according to the ACA, allows prisoners to work for little to no pay, which in some cases, crosses the limits of human decency amounting to modern-day servitude. Despite that many correctional officials claim that there is nothing punitive about withholding wages, the ACA has called upon Prison Work Programs to “aspire” to offer inmates productivity-based wages. Questions of a modern-day slavery come in addition to interrogations of whether racial discrimination and excessive force have become prominently used tactics within the correctional system.
Over fifty thousand inmates from across two dozen states have taken part in coordinated strikes, making it the largest and most significant inmate strike in American history. These inmates are risking disciplinary action, solitary confinement, and extended sentencing because of these protests. The US Supreme Court stated, “Jails and prisons are not supposed to be dangerous and dehumanizing.” Because of this, it will be interesting how the many elections of 2016 play out and whether the elected officials will take a stand to correct our correctional system.