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Caps, Prison Slavery, Barbara Esposito, 1982, Part 4

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Chapter 8:

Struggle Inside
Why, you welcomed the intelligence from France, that Louis
Philippe had been barricaded in Paris - you threw up your
caps in honor of the victory achieved by Republicanism over
Royalty - you shouted a loud - "Long live the republic!" - and
joined heartily in the watchword of "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" - and should you not hail with equal pleasure the tidings
from the South that the slaves had risen, achieved for them.
selves, against the iron-hearted slaveholder, what the republicans of France achieved against the royalists of France?

- Frederick Douglass
Faneuil Hall, Boston
June 8,1849'

Prisoners come from the most ernpoverished, most disernpowered
communities of this nation. Prison is the last stop on the line; here, behind cages of concrete and steel, through the sights of a gun and
answering to a bill of no rights, government attempts to teach its captives to accept the "fate of the lower classes," to "rehabilitate" prisoners into accepting that fate.
The following letter from a California prisoner to a friend o.utside illustrates the futility constantly facing those locked inside without
rights or resources to determine their own fate:
A very sad prisoner came to me and explained that he had
just received a letter from his wife in Detroit. Therein his wife
told of a group of charity-oriented persons who brought some
food and toys over for Christmas. His baby son refused the
broken toys, started crying and shouted, "If you want to do
something good then get my Daddy out of prison so he can
buy me some toys!" Then he ran out of the project-apartment.
The mother accepted the food and toys, and went on in her
letter to beg her husband for assistance in relocating in California to be near enough to visit. I wanted to help- but I
couldn't. February this prisoners got another letter in which
his wife said she was going to get another old man "because
the kids need a father and I need someone to help me make it
through these rough times." The prisoner transferred to another joint and now doesn't give a damn whether he ever gets
out or not. . . .

Prisoners are at the mercy of their keepers and, by virtue of their
bondage, cannot determine the course of their own lives. They are
forced into helplessness and their helplessness turns into despair.
Prison slaves suffer atrophy of vital social abilities that prosper only
with exercise of freedoms of speech, press, association, the rights to
vote, petition, due process, and labor protections. These social "mus-

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PRISON SLAVERY

cles" only become strong with practice of the rights to labor for just
wages at a job of one's choice, safety from undue search and seizure
and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment. Slavery and involuntary servitude are founded on denial of these vital protections.
Palsied by bondage, many leave prison with new disabilities, new
bitterness, new futility. While society expects that they should have
"learned their lesson," in reality their alternatives have been greatly
diminished by the injustices they have suffered as slaves.
A person may develop numerous disabilities during and after release from prison. The ability to exercise citizenship rights becomes
atrophied with denial of the opportunity to practice them, while new
social muscles develop to contend with the primitive viciousness of
contemporary punishment. Prisons train people to survive under cruel
conditions; rehabilitation can only occur in the community. The task
of crossing a street can overwhelm the new parolee who, having spent
years behind high walls in a five-by-ten-foot cell, can no longer judge
time, distance, and speed of oncoming traffic. In addition to losing
such rights as "voting, holding offices of public and private trust, and
serving as a juror," the prisoner and ex-prisoner may have lost "family
by divorce or adoption proceedings resulting from conviction." The
ex-prisoner may experience "difficulty managing. . . property, entering
contracts and obtaining insurance, bonding, and pensions," and may
also "be barred from a broad range government-regulated and private
empl~yment."~
Broken families, an already competitive labor market where jobs are
even-more difficult for an "ex-con" to find, and special restrictions the
parolee must abide by in order to avoid being returned to prison - a
traffic violation, for example, or leaving the state without obtaining authorization from a parole officer - are only a few of the additional handicaps the newly freed slave must endure. Just as the Black Codes
were designed to return freed chattel slaves to their old masters, so
parole regulations and social prejudices make it easy to recage newly
freed prisoners. No wonder that 40 to 70 percent of those released
from prison return. As one Louisiana prisoner put it:
Prisons remind me of a machine that makes tin cans. When
a can comes out of the machine with a dent in it, they put it
back through the same machine to take out the dent. Instead
of removing the dent, the machine dents the can worse! So,
they repeat the process until the can becomes so dented that
it can never be repaired. When will society consider the fact
that it's the machine that needs r e ~ a i r i n g ? ~

Without practice of their citizenship and labor rights, prisoners'
fates are no better than the tin cans this prisoner described. Another
prisoner put it this way:
We need to effect a.program that will be for the benefit of
those incarcerated, not a program that will beef-up security.

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169

Walls, bars, and barbed wire fences do not help a human gain
self-respect. What gives a person self-respect is the knowledge that he or she has accomplished something. This
(something) is the building of a productive society that develops friendship and cooperation among its inhabitants.
One day we will be returned to society and if we are conditioned into not being responsible decision-making humans, then
surely we will make irrational decisions. A lot of prisoners
have no one to turn to; so, they are in greater danger of returning because there is a lack of support.
Why not ask us (prisoners) what our needs are? Prison officials do not live with us, so how can they even begin to comprehend our problems? My experience with prisons would
lead me to believe that we as prisoners could make our world
better by having a voice. . . .

Most prison administrators regard prisoner efforts to humanize
their living conditions as a threat; any totalitarian regime is threatened
by organized, peaceful attempts at self-empowerment by its subjects.
Denied the right to vote and often punished for attempting to exercise
free expression, American prisoners know the oppressions of bondage. While slavery breeds fear, complacency, frustration and powerlessness, it also breeds struggle for freedom. Thousands of stolen
people jumped off slave ships and into the sea rather than face bondage, and slave insurrections left a trail through history of the blood
spilled during the slavemasters' brutal backlash. The Underground
Railroad was the American slave's only sucessful escape-route to
freedom, but today there can be no underground railroad because no
part to the country is free of "slavery. . .as a punishment for crime."
The hidden nature of prison slavery's practice keeps many potential
abolitionists immobilized by ignorance. Slaves have never been able
to safely voice their needs or demands but the antebellum South's
unashamed celebration of human bondage made it possible for citizens to witness and then to protest against slavery. Today, slavery is
hidden in law and behind high bastilles which guard against physical
escape and prevent public witness to daily brutalities.

Rebellion
Increased arrests for political crimes such as unlawful civil rights
and anti-war marches; government infiltration and harrassment of organizations such as the Black Panther Party, the Student Nonviolent
Coordinating Committee and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; and persecution and murder of leaders
such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Fred Hampton, the Berrigan brothers,
Angela Davis, Malcolm X, and many more, all led public attention to
turn to prisons.
In 1969, black prisoners at the Indiana Reformatory petitioned the
prison administration to forbid their keepers' use of derogatory racial

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epithets and arbitrary punishments. After written appeal brought no
results, petitioners sat down in protest and guards opened fire, killing
two and wounding 46 prisoners. Those who escaped injury were placed in segregation and denied visitors and writing privileges. "After
deliberation the grand jury determined that the guards had committed
no criminal act by firing into the group of seated prisoner^."^
Struggle for Justice, a study of crime and punishment prepared for
the American Friends Service Committee, reported:
On August 11, 1970, three Philadelphia judges, reporting on
the aftermath of a July 4 riot that left ninety-six persons injured at Holmesburg Prison, characterized the prison as a
"cruel, degrading and disgusting place, likely to bring out the
worst in man.. .Since the riot, the prison has, in addition,
become a place ruled, as one of the prisoners certified, by
'cold-blooded terror'. . .."
On the following day prisoners in the Tombs - New York's
famous bastille, where accused suspects are held before trial
- rioted, held several guards hostage, and presented a list of
grievances that included inadequate food, filthy cells, brutality, lack of medical care, and insufficient representation by
court-appointed lawyers. Less than two months later thousands of inmates in four New York City jails rebelled, taking
control of the jails, holding hostages, and raising demands
that challenged not only jail conditions but city court practices as weIL5

That protest was also put down by force and, again, defenseless
prisoners were brutally maimed. Significantly, "the New York City
prison protests followed a decade in which that city had cooperated
fully in implementing what has been widely regarded as the most significant program in the nation dealing with problems of pretrial detention."Weform of slavery does not produce significant change. Victims
of the slavery proviso in the Thirteenth Amendment, the prisoners at
the Tombs were demanding relief for themselves from the incessant
cruelties that had blighted the lives of slaves before them. In closing
their petition, they stated:
We are firm in our resolve and we demand, as human beings,
the dignity and justice that is due t o us by right of our birth.
We do not know how the present system of brutality and dehumanization and injustice has been allowed to be perpetuated in this day of enlightenment, but we are the living proof
of its existence and we cannot allow it to continue.
The manner in which we chose to express our grievances is
admittedly dramatic, but it is not as dramatic and shocking
as the conditions under which society has forced us to live.
We are indignant and so, too, should the people of society be
indignant.
The taxpayer, who, just happens to be our mothers, fathers,
sisters, brothers, sons and daughters should be made aware

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of how their tax dollars are being spent to deny their sons,
brothers, fathers and uncles justice, equality and dignity.'

On January 13, 1970, in California's Soledad Prison, a spontaneous
riot provoked by racist agitation occurred when previously segregated
prisoners were put in the exercise yard together. Interracial tensions
were high, no guards were sent into the yard with them, and, predictably, a fight erupted between two prisoners and led to havoc in the
yard.8
[Soledad guard] O.G. Miller had the reputation of being a hardline racist, and was known to be an expert marksman. He was
stationed in the gun tower that day. He carefully aimed his
carbine and fired several times. Three men fell: W.L. Nolen,
Cleveland Edwards, Alvin Miller. They were all Black. A few
days later the Monterey County Grand Jury was convened to
hear the case of O.G. Miller. As could have been predicted, he
was absolved of all responsibility for the deaths of the three
brothers. The Grand Jury ruled that he had done nothing more
serious than commit "justifiable h ~ m i c i d e . " ~

Shortly after, three prisoners, George Jackson, Fleeta Drumgo and
John Clutchette, were charged with the death of a Soledad guard.
There was no evidence for the charge; these three black men had been
singled out because of their continued protest of Miller's acquittal,
because of their political beliefs and because of the respect they won
from other inmates during discussions of the need for liberation of oppressed peoples: their conviction and execution would serve as an example to like-minded prisoners. In the year that followed, a committee
to defend the Soledad Brothers was mobilized and, in May 1971, the
State's star witness admitted in court to having given false testimony
in exchange for an early parole and all charges against the Soledad
Three were dropped.1°
Barely three months later on August 3, 1971, George Jackson was
murdered by San Quentin prison guards. Thinking slaves have always
been selected for special punishment and George Jackson had become a symbol of freedom for too many people. In her autobiography,
Angela Davis described the experience of hearing George Jackson's
mother explain the conviction that had put him in prison:
Georgia Jackson, Black, woman, mother; her infinite strength
undergirded her plaintive words about her son.
When she began to talk about George, a throbbing silence
came over the hall. "They took George away from us when he
was only eighteen. That was ten years ago." In a voice trem,bling with emotion, she went on to describe the incident
which had robbed him of the little freedom he possessed as a
young boy struggling to become a man. He was in a car when
its owner - a casual acquaintance of his - had taken seventy
dollars from a service station. Mrs. Jackson insisted that he

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had been totally oblivious of his friend's designs. Nevertheless, thanks to an inept, insensitive public defender, thanks
to a system which had long ago stacked the cards against
young Black defendants like George, he was pronounced guilty of robbery. The matter of his sentencing was routinely
handed over to the Youth Authority.
With angry astonishment I listened to Mrs. Jackson
describe the sentence her son had received: one year to life in
prison. One to life. And George had already done ten times
the minimum.ll

On August 3, 1971, 28 year old Jackson was sprayed with bullets by
guards who claimed he was trying to escape. Those familiar with the inner workings of prison knew that George Jackson had been executed.
On the other coast, in a prison named after an ancient Greek citystate known for its keeping of slaves, Attica, prisoners were already
involved in peaceful attempts to convince their overseers to humanize
their living conditions. As the Official Reports of the New York State
Special Commission on A ttica expressed it:
Into this atmosphere of frustration and futility came the news
of the shooting of George Jackson by prison guards at San
Quentin. If officials' explanations of the death of Fred Hampton in Chicago in 1969 were unacceptable to black people in
this country, the official account of the death of George
,Jackson was regarded by Attica inmates as a flagrant insult.
California officials claimed that Jackson had attempted to
escape with a gun smuggled in to him by an attorney and concealed by Jackson as he left the visiting area.
Every Attica inmate who had ever received a visit in prison
believed Jackson must certainly have been subjected to a
thorough search before entering and immediately upon leaving the visiting room. Even if a gun could have been concealed in his hair, inmates reasoned, it would certainly not escape
detection during such a search.12

George Jackson had been murdered and Attica convicts
demonstrated their outrage at that death in the quiet rebellion of black
arm bands and a hunger strike. A month earlier, in July, a petition had
been submitted listing Attica prisoner grievances:
Their demands centered largely on improvement of the conditions of their imprisonment, not the end of that imprisonment
itself. Among other things, they demanded legal representation before the Parole Board; improvement in medical care,
visiting facilities, food and sanitary conditions in the mess
hall, personal hygiene, clothing, recreational facilities, and
working conditions in the shops; a uniform set of rules in all
prisons; adjustment of commissary prices; and "an end to the
segregation of prisoners from the mainline population
because of their political beliefs."13

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Come September, nearly nine months had passed without any response to prisoners' requests to negotiate with the Attica administration. Denied access to the media and appeal to public support, Attica
prisoners, like all other prisoners, were stymied in their attempts to effect needed change. John Cohen, friend of Sam Melville, one of those
killed in the September massacre, wrote:
By subjecting prisoners to total degradation -one inmate described Mancusi as "not a warden, but a concentration camp
commandant to whom inmates are not even dogs, just numbers" - a n d by refusing the inmates any hope for significant
change in prison conditions, the pigs created enough anger,
frustration and despair to generate any number of riots. And
by refusing the prisoners access to the media the pigs actually encouraged riots. As Sam wrote, "We are left with nothing
except riots to bring our plight before the p ~ b l i c . " ' ~

On September 8th, the growing tension exploded when a guard accused a prisoner of a rule infraction and ordered him into lock-up.
Other prisoners went to his defense, a hostage was taken and soon
prisoners were holding the yard. The prisoners' attempt to force the
administration into fruitful negotiations ended at the order of Governor Nelson Rockefeller on September 13th:
First, a special gas was sprayed into the yard before the
police opened fire. Rockefeller described the effects of this
gas as "fantastic." Inmates said it was extremely powerful,
sending men into convulsion^.^^

State snipers, perched on the high walls encircling the yard, fired into
the prisoners as troopers charged into the yard from below, spraying
bullets as they ran. Reports later showed that
Before they charged into D yard troopers loaded their
shotguns with .32 caliber "pellets" - t h e size of pistol slugs
- especially chosen so that each pellet would have murderous
effect. Snipers loaded their rifles with .270Winchester .30 gr.
expanding bullets. Ammunition boxes discarded outside prison walls advertise "the exclusive Silvertip bullet with controlled expansion (and) soft-jacketed tip." In plain language, dumdum bullets, which international law outlaws in warfare.16

Today, no one questions why the slaves in the South rebelled, no
one publicly disclaims their human right to equality and dignity under
the law, or their historic right to throw off their chains. Villains of the
nineteenth century like Nat Turner and John Brown are now national
heroes. They, and millions before and after them, were responding to
tyranny. They died demanding justice. There is an ongoing crisis in
American prisons which comes to public light only after prison violence too massive and tragic to hide. The public wakes, pressure is
put on prisons to remove the causes of violence but, shortly after, all

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is forgotten and the conditions which provoke prison violence remain.
Nearly a decade after the Attica rebellion, we received the following
from an Attica prisoner:
As you may have heard or read, Attica has been in somewhat
of a turmoil for the last few months. There has been a rash of
killings, stabbings and daily fights amongst the inmate population. It would take more than this mere piece of paper to adequately explain the causes and effects, etc., but I will sum it up
by merely saying, things are really bad, and you will definitely
be hearing more from the Attica correctional facility!

Another prisoner also wrote in 1979 to explain the roots of prisoner
unrest:
I am a prisoner in the state of Washington and a Slave of the
state. You have probably read or heard about the lock-down
here and as everything comes to light, you will see that
Slavery is the cause of it all. The brutality that was submitted
here to hundreds of men, by officers with guns, clubs, leaded
gloves, belts and whatever they could use to harm and beat
innocent men, is only an act that was performed on slaves
years ago prior to the abolishment of Slavery and yet it is
allowed today to prisoners. WHY?
What would happen if you took an animal and beat it with
the instruments named above, for no reason at all?? If you
took animals and caged them up so close that they could not
move about in a normal manner, what would the Humane Society do to you?? If you worked the animals without proper
food, what would the Humane Society do?? YET, the Constitution of the United States allows the above to happen to
human prisoners.
Are we not a maturing society? Should we not as prisoners,
progress with a maturing society? If so, how can we progress
when the Constitution has not progressed and still condones
Slavery?

The next year violence overtook the prison at Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The rage unleashed in Santa Fe was that of people who had been poked at, terrorized and brutalized for years.

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Santa Fe, 1980
New Mexico has drawn the tears from my soul. These things
are the result of man's inhumanity to man. In the name of
God, Justice and Right Conduct, we will not be on earth i f this
continues for another two hundred years.

-

Oji
Jessup Prison, Maryland
February, 1980
In the early morning of February 2, 1980, prisoners in the state
penitentiary at Sante Fe, New Mexico, began a 36-hour siege that left
an unknown number of prisoners dead, more than 100 wounded and
$10 million in property damages - a "rampage of murder and mutilation," wrote one reporter, "that is apparently without precedent in
the history of American prison^."'^
The root causes of the February 2, 1980, prison slave rebellion at
Santa Fe lay in the conditions under which those prisoners were forced to live and survive. From the outset, the tragedy of Santa Fe, of
prisoners killing other prisoners, was caused by the brutal slave practices of that state prison.
New Mexico's violation of prisoners' rights became clearer in the
American Broadcasting Company's television documentary "Death in
a Southwest Prison." Severe overcrowding: " . . .there's about six inches between you and the next bed, " reported a former inmate; "you
can't even move your arm over without hitting somebody in the face,
and you've got all these radios and things on different stations full
hog, and all these people are packed in." Flagrant violation of prisoners' rights to privacy and personal property: "They would go in and
have [cell] shakedowns and throw his pictures of his children and his
wife on the floor and walk on 'em, for no reason at all other than the
fact that they just, you know, regarded that person as an inmate or a
convicted criminal." Beatings and the "hole": a nine-by-six-foot cell
which one ex-prisoner described as having "seven men thrown in there
with one hole in the ground, and you have to eat in this place; there's
no ventilation. You have a jug of water, where everybody shares it. You
have to use a rest room in front of seven people, and if they [the
guards] don't want to flush the toilet outside, they won't flush i t . . . .
there's a lot of individuals that are unable to take i t . . .and pretty soon
you got guards coming in beating on these guys."ls
In this institution where 90 percent of its prisoners had less than 60
square feet each to live in and men have sentences as long as 250 to
1200 years,Ig there was even less hope for those who succumbed to
mental illness. In September 1980, the Albuquerque Journal reported
on Santa Fe's crude treatment of its mentally disturbed prisoners:
solitary confinement, deli berate withholding of medication, medical
treatment without supervision by a licensed physician in violation of
state health codes, and, in some cases, immobilization of "violently

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PRISON SLAVERY

suicidal inmates. . .in plaster bodycasts, which were left with holes
for them to urinate and defecate through."20
"Self-mutilators are numerous in any prison setting," Dr.
[Frank] Rundle [New York psychiatrist and American Civil
Liberties Union forensics health care consultant] told the
Journal. "But the way prison people deal with it allows them
to ignore the fact that the way they're running the prison and
treating people is what's leading prisoners to do it.
"Prison officials, rather than dealing with the basic problems, lock people up in cells, or put them in restraints, or in
some cases, knock them out with tranquilizers.. .
"Everybody knew the problems were there - everybody, all
the way up to the g~vernor."~'

While imprisoned, cousins Dwight and Lonnie Duran challenged unconstitutional prison conditions in court and won. In December 1979,
Santa Fe prisoners told corrections officials that a rebellion would occur if partial court orders of Duran v. King were not complied with immediately. Two weeks before the riot, a memo from a prison psychologist informed the prison administration that an uprising would occur,
predicting it to the very day. Nothing was done. Ten days before the
February riot, Dwight Duran completed his sentence and was released
from prison. Now working at the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, Dwight explained that the prison rebellion
was anticipated at the same time New Mexico's correction's department was waiting for the legislature to respond to its request for more
funds. Dwight said that such "coincidences" had occurred many
times before:
A lot of investigative reporters have done work in this area.
It's a fact, a very well known fact that they knew it was coming: memos were sent by staff and security days ahead.
They knew it was coming. But up t o that point in New Mexico the riots had been contained in one or two living units.
They could easily quell them and they would go to the state
legislature, request what they needed, and get funding. But
this time they underestimated the rage.
A couple of months before, they had a mass escape of
eleven inmates.. .If you check the balances of records for
escapes and disturbances, you find the corrections officials
have also had an appointment to go to the state legislative
finance committee or such. And it's too frequent to be coincidence.

Prison riots tend to occur at crucial times for state appropriations;
New Mexico is not unique in experiencing prison disturbances which
occur just in time to help convince politicians to appropriate more
money for corrections. Prison rebellions frighten taxpayers into be-

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lieving more dollars must be spent to better "protect" them from "dangerous criminals" already locked away.
Since January 1980, the State of New Mexico has appropriated $300
million to its corrections budget, largely in reaction to that February
tragedy in Santa Fe. A considerable portion of the money, Dwight told
us, has gone to pay consultants to study the system. But studies on
the New Mexico prison system are not new - one quarter of a million
dollars paid for a study in 1977 and, two years later, a half million funded another. In December 1979, only one clause of the findings of a
study on Santa Fe's staffing was released: "It said that the State of
New Mexico was playing Russian roulette with the lives of the inmates, the staff, and the public alike. And that was two months before
the riot. They stuck it in the bottom drawer and never released the findings." A few days after the riot, $95 million was appropriated for the
construction of two new prisons, shortly followed by another $14 million for renovation and building expenses. The 1980 budget shows a
65 percent increase for operational expenses, and when we asked
Dwight where the money had gone, he said: "Higher salaries, uniforms and nice offices. Inmates are still wearing rags and eating
slop."
Mice and vermin in prisoners' half-cooked meals, arbitrary disciplinary procedures, vengeful staff and inhumane treatment, cavity
searches, routine harrassment of prisoner visitors and intolerably
long sentences were among the conditions that created the intense
rage unleashed on February 2, 1980. This in a state which spends
$8,000 each year to keep one person in prison.22
Beyond vile living conditions, Santa Fe prison keepers showed traditional overseer vigilance in maintaining slavemaster control. Slaveholders have always planted informants among their chattel and no
prison is without its snitches. As the ABC documentary reported, the
snitch system at Santa Fe was deliberate, widespread and recruitment
of prisoner informants was laced with brutality. If a prisoner refused
to be an informer, as one ex-inmate reported,
They'll take him and throw him in with a bunch of hard
timers. . . . knowin' that they're going to beat him, they're gonna rape him and everything else. Then, when he gets out of
the hospital the Captains and Lieutenants tell him, All right,
you do what we want to, and.. .we'll keep 'em away from

Public report suggested the prisoner violence that night was aimed at
the snitches, but no reporters were allowed to interview the prisoners
to find out what really happened. As Dwight Duran told us, of the 33
prisoners reported killed, only 13 were found in the protective custody
unit where prisoner informants were housed. Nor did the riot result
from drug-induced hysteria: as Dwight remarked, the drugs prisoners
were alleged to have obtained from the medical dispensary were sed-

178 PRISON SLAVERY

atives and could have only helped to quell the rage, not intensify it.
On September 3, 1981, the Santa Fe Reporter published findings of
the Inter-Media Investigative Group, "a group of newspaper, television
and radio'reporters and several other individuals, all of whom had become frustrated in their independent efforts to get to the bottom of
New Mexico's scandal-ridden corrections system."24 One of the results of their intensive five-month investigation revealed that, while
the prison administration's report lists 33 dead, 120 Santa Fe prisoners are unaccounted for, missing since the riot. The investigative
group also interviewed prisoners who reported seeing piles of bodies
after the riot, deaths not accounted for in official reports.25
Little has changed in New Mexico's Santa Fe prison since that horrible national media event. The court order resulting from Duran v.
King has not been enforced; there have been isolated prisoner killings
and suicides; and, as the Inter-Media Investigative Group reports,
there exists no credible fiscal accounting system for the prison.26The
man in charge of Santa Fe's prison, Felix Rodriguez, whom many blame
for the tyranny and brutality which rules the prison, still reigns. Prisoners still have six months of visiting privileges taken away if they
touch their visitors more than twice, upon greeting and farewell. As
Dwight Duran explains, it is not uncommon for a guard to take a baby
out of his imprisoned father's arms and charge the prisoner with violating visiting rules.
New Mexico continues to punish its citizens with intolerable long
and harsh sentences while several of its towns are competing for the
next new prison location and employment that prisons can bring. In
the aftermath of Santa Fe, however, there is a growing movement
among New Mexico citizens to force the state government to bring
humane treatment to its prisoners. Like freedom fighters before them,
prisoner rights activists have been threatened with violence. In an interview with ABC, activist Juan Lopez stated:
They have made threats on my life. My line.. .rings all the
time.. .and.. .at one time my daughter came to me and she
was crying and screaming, she says: they're after you, Dad,
they want to kill you, a threat has been made. They told me to
tell you. . .stop the investigation. . .or else.27

And, like antebellum slave leaders, prisoners who have used their
even limited access to the courts to effectively challenge unconstitutional brutality are further isolated in modern slaveholding attempts
to render them powerless. Lonnie Duran, co-plaintiff Duran v. King,
who is serving 300 years and who was instrumental in saving hostage
lives during the February riot, was transferred to Lompoc prison in
California. There he met friend David Ruiz who was transferred from a
Texas prison. Like Duran, Ruiz was responsible for important litigation, Ruiz V. Estelle, which was decided in favor of Texas prisoners.
Shortly after, Lompoc prison keepers charged both men with instigat-

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ing an alleged work strike which never took place.28 Ruiz was then
transferred to the federal penitentiary at Marion, Illinois, and Duran
was sent to Leavenworth, Kansas. Like slave leaders before them,
they had been "sold South" as punishment.
What happened in Santa Fe prison provided brief, intense insight into the suffering hidden by prison walls. Prison slavery breeds rebellion, results in human destruction and incites riot. Like the systems of
human bondage which permeated the antebellum South, the severity
of contemporary punishment varies from state to state, from prison to
prison, but, as one Texas prisoner put it:
Slavery, man. Human slavery. You write that down. That's all
you need to write, because that puts it all in one

Notes
1. Foner, Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass, vol. 1, p. 399.
2. President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice Task Force Report: Corrections 88 (1967) The Collateral Consequences of
a Criminal Conviction, Vanderbilt Law Review, 23 (1970): 939.
3. Letter from Louisiana prisoner Billy McLeod as printed in "Jake McCarthy,
a personal opinion," St. Louis, Mo. Post-Dispatch, January 18, 1978.
4. Struggle for Justice, A Report on Crime and Punishment in America Prepared for the American Friends Service Committee (New York: Hill & Wang, a
division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1971), p. 6.
5. Ibid., p. 1.
6. Ibid., p. 7.
7. Ibid., pp. 5-6.
8. Angela Davis, Angela Davis: An Autobiography (New York: Random House,
Inc., 1974), p. 252.
9. Ibid.
10. Ibid., p. 253; If They Come in the Morning, p. 73 n.
11. Angela Davis: An Autobiography, pp. 253-254.
12. New York State Special Commission on Attica, Attica: The Official Report
of the New York State Special Commission on Attica (New York: Bantam
Books, Inc., 1972), p. 139.
13. Ibid., p. 134.
14. Samuel Melville, Letters from Attica, introduction by John Cohen (New
York: William Morrow & Company, Inc., 1972), p. 70.
15. Ibid., p. 73.
16. Ibid., pp. 75-76.
17. Cynthia Gorney, "New Mexico Prison Toll Reaches 35; At Least 20 Murdered," Washington Post, February 5, 1980.

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PRISON SLAVERY

18. "Death in a Southwest Prison," produced by Stephen Fleischrnan, ABC
News Closeup September 23, 1980 television broadcast transcript (American
Broadcasting Companies, Inc., 1980).
19. Craig Pyes, "Priority Given to Crisis in Mental Care at Pen," Albuquerque
Journal, September 25, 1980; length of prison sentences told to us by former
Santa Fe prisoner Dwight Duran.
20. Craig Pyes, "Plaster Casts Employed as Prisoner Restraints," Albuquerque
Journal, September 23, 1980.
21. Craig Pyes, "Mentally Ill State Prison Inmates Receive Crude Treatment,"
Albuquerque Journal, September 21, 1980.
22. National Moratorium on Prison Construction, "Average Maintenance Cost
in Prisons and Jails per Prisoner per Year."
23. ABC News Closeup, "Death in a Southwest Prison."
24. Inter-Media Investigative Group, "Frustration was the Common Bond," Hell
o n ~ a r t hA
: Special Report, Santa Fe Reporter, September 3, 1981, p. 2. Members of the investigative team: Roger Morris (team leader), Toni Drew, Kingsley
Harnmett, David Hendry, Karen McDaniel, Kathy Morris, Peter Morris, Mary
Lynn Roper, Diana Stauffer, Charles Zdravesky, and other members who were
not identified "because their work within the penitentiary and the Corrections
Department, and their contacts within the system, would be jeopardized by
public exposure of their role." (p. 2).
25. Ibid, "The Unknown Toll: We'll Never Know," p. 3.
26. Ibid., "They Thought It Was Their Prison," pp. 7, 10.
27. ABC News Closeup, "Death in a Southwest Prison."
28. As reported to us by Dwight Duran.
29. Krajick, p. 17.

Chapter 9:

A New
Abolitionist Movement
That slavery has begun its fall is plain, but. . .its fall will be
resisted by those who cling to it. . ..The end will be slow. Woe
to abolitionists if they think their work is well nigh done.

- Theodore Weld, 1852'
Groups and organizations within the prisoners' rights and criminal
justice arenas are joining the struggle to abolish prison slavery at an
increasing rate, and their growing rank-and-file membership is also
calling for prison slavery's abolition. Habilitation or rehabilitation demands affirmation of human dignity and exercise of the responsibilities inherent in the practice of democratic rights. We cannot expect to have safe streets when we dehumanize lawbreakers and return
them to society full of new rage accumulated during years of bondage
and with new helplessness caused by enforced powerlessness and
denial of democratic protections. Abolition of prison slavery will humanize our systems of punishment and encourage use of humane alternatives to imprisonment.
Unlike nineteenth century bondage, modern slavery is hidden rather
than proudly displayed. It selects victims from those most impoverished and its perpetuation depends on national misunderstanding. Slavery is a cancer in our justice system; any remnant of the dreaded illness allows it to flourish, maim and kill. Until prison slavery is abolished, we will continue putting band-aids on cancerous wounds only to
have them fester and recur in various forms of suffering throughout
our body politic.
The old abolitionist movement did not complete its work. As the
struggle against one form of bondage gathered momentum, another
was developing in its place. Prison slavery was sealed into the very
constitutional amendment which achieved chattel slavery's prohibition. Like chattel slavery before it, modern prison slavery is the most
blatant form of human bondage in its time, revealing and requiring
elimination of its many contributing oppressions.
Overwhelmingly poor and minority prison populations testify to government's continued effort to train citizens to submit willingly to the
"fate" of the lower classes. As American political leadership moves
further away from sheltering the rights of people to advocating the
rights of a few to accrue wealth, we come to a new era of struggle.
Slavery protects the rights of profit rather than the rights of people;
advocacyof civil rights has become a defensive political position rather than the vanguard of government policy changes, and we face expansion of slave punishments.

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PRISON SLAVERY

Like the developers of seventeenth century workhouses, the contract labor and convict lease systems, some "reformers" are lobbying
to readmit private industry to American prisons and open the free market to prison-made products. Even the Chief Justice of the Supreme
Court, Warren E. Burger, has gone on record for building "factories
with fences around themM2Touting liberal-sounding labels such as
the "free venture system," modern advocates in harnessing prison
labor for profit present sophisticated arguments for the rehabilitative
value of work and the additional benefit of reducing the cost of imprisonment. Among the unmentioned dangers is the threat to American
workers: letting private industry into prison would open the way for
corporations unwilling to meet the demands of organized labor. With
the unorganized and exploitable labor force in prisons, industrialists
who have moved their shops to third-world countries for cheap labor
could come home again. Prisons would become profitable for government and big business and serve to depress wages by making free
American workers compete with imprisoned workers. Until prisoners
are guaranteed the practices and protections of citizenship, labor
rights and human rights, all of us remain unprotected victims of their
potential exploitation.
Recognizing the immediate dangers of American inequality, we
must pick up the prematurely discarded banner of slavery abolition to
build a new abolitionist movement. The nineteenth century dictum remains true: while slavery is reserved for one of us, none of us is free.
Building on the tradition of abolitionists before us, we need to focus
on slavery's last lawful stronghold: "slavery. . .as a punishment for
crime."

Lessons from Old Abolitionists
John Woolman gave witness to the relationship between unequal
wealth and oppression; Frederick Douglass contributed a former
slave's leadership and clarity of perception to the often confused
charity of his fellow abolitionists; Dred Scott persisted in fighting for
his right to freedom in the courts; Harriet Tubman led her people up
from slavery; John Brown died for abolition; workers and slaves fought
the Civil War to bring freedom to this nation; Charles Sumner fought
slavery in Congress and joined forces with abolitionists like Douglass
to ensure the civil rights of emancipated freedmen; Wendell Phillips
took his abolitionist training to the labor movement and Susan B. Anthony helped forge the women's movement; the Molly Maguires were
hanged for their insistence on justice; W.E.B. DuBois urged his people
on to freedom; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., George Jackson and unmentioned others have left a legacy and example for us to carry forward. From them, and by examining the development of their struggles, we learn much of what abolition of prison slavery demands. As

A NEW ABOLITIONIST MOVEMENT

183

we hold to the strengths of our abolitionist heritage, we must also
avoid its past mistakes.
Sources of the old movement's weaknesses lay in the superficial
understanding of inequality that guided some of its most influential
members. Sheltered by relatively affluent lifestyles, several remained
ignorant of slavery's roots in economic exploitation. Because of this,
the movement generally failed to embrace workers' struggles against
class-based oppression. The festering wound of prison slavery was a
natural outgrowth of ignored inequities. The movement failed to encourage leadership from ex-slaves within it, even though those who
suffer under slavery have always known it best. Frederick Douglass,
appalled by victimization of the "free" poor, which he said reminded
him "of the plantation, and my own cruelly abused people," was ignored when he argued against postwar disbanding of the movement. He
criticized those abolitionists who would abandon the ballot box or let
the South secede in order to be cleansed of partaking in a slaveholding government. From the earliest abolitionist struggles we learn that
slavery oppresses all, even the slavemaster, but that it is the slave
who loses nothing by breaking slavery's chains. It is from the ranks of
those most oppressed that we learn what abolition demands. Today,
those who know slavery best are behind prison walls; not only have
they experienced denial of their rights as prisoners, but their direct
victimization by social, political and economic inequities contributed
to their imprisonment. The success of a renewed abolitionist movement depends on bridging the abyss which has kept slave and free
from working together.
Slavery thrives on divisions among its victims. While it seeks to divide caged victims by fostering racial animosity and offering crumbs
of privilege to those who contribute to fellow slave disempowerment,
it also prospers from divisions among the "free" who fight it. Labor
and civil rights movements have been natural allies but the wellfostered misunderstandings which separate economic and political
struggles for equality in this country have served to divide them. The
struggle against slavery is a fight against all inequality. If the old
abolitionist movement had defended labor, workers would have swelled abolitionist ranks; if slave leadership had been fully recognized,
tragic mistakes could have been avoided. With each of slavery's victims contributing to the other's understanding of oppression, the injustices which helped slavery expand and change forms might have
been eliminated.

Mandate for a United Front
When the abolitionist movement prematurely disbanded, the modern prisoners' rights movement began. The unfinished work of abolition has also continued in other arenas: civil rights, labor rights,

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PRISON SLAVERY

minority rights, women's rights, the peace movement, advocacy for
the poor and the struggle to end oppression from unequal wealth.
While important victories have been won, the struggles have continued along a divided front.
This disunity can be examined, in microcosm, in the prisoners'
rights movement. Organizations are severely underfunded to carry out
their programs and competion develops between like-purposed organizations for meager resources. Despite hard-won battles for justice,
the oppressions which have faced prison slaves for centuries appear
in new forms again and again. Prisoner needs continue to overwhelm
the capacity of any one organization or coalition of organizations to
serve. Most prisoners' rights activists have been victimized by the
long-prevailing notion that slavery was abolished, that rights are to be
protected rather than won. Unaware of this important contradiction,
twentieth century prison reform can be likened to humanizing the system of bondage which victimized this nation before the Civil War: it
cannot be done without abolishing the institutionalized structure of
punishment - slavery.
Since the end of the Vietnam War, there has been a resurgence of
the attitudes which upheld antebellum slavery. "Taking government
off the backs of the people" has become the political slogan for granting new license for exploitation to the robber barons of burgeoning
corporate cartels. The call to balance the national budget by slashing
programs which helped protect consumers, workers and the unemployed, minorities, children, the elderly and the poor has given new impetus to "profits before people." Government's renewed war on crime
promises that prison populations will increase, punishing those who
rebel against growing repression and hiding those who fall victim in
the intensifying struggle to survive. Recent burnings of books by
"moral majority" censors and cross-burnings by the "new" Klan serve
as signposts for the dismantling of our liberties.
The weakened posture of the people's progressive forces is a defensive one, one that assumes this country is free of slavery when it is not
and that has failed to grasp the essential unity of interest of those too
oppressed to act as one. The Thriteenth Amendment's authorization
of prison slavery provides a tactic for a new offensive for people's
rights, but abolition of prison slavery and of contributing inequalities
requires unprecedented unity. Too much work exists for any single
group, organization or coalition, and the struggle is too large to waste
precious resources by failing to coordinate efforts.
A United Front to Abolish Prison Slavery would help answer America's need for a new abolitionist movement. Based on the understanding that each quest for equality finally depends upon the abolition of
slavery, this federation of abolitionists and their respective organizations could reach out to support other struggles for people's rights
while carefully coordinating prison slavery abolitionist activities. By
sharing resources and responsibility and avoiding duplication of ef-

A NEW ABOLITIONIST MOVEMENT

185

forts through cooperative organizing, the United Front would be able
to forge an offensive to stop the expansion of modern slavery.

WORK TO BE DONE
We face a social, economic and political problem which must be attacked at the sources of its proliferation: local, state, and federal criminal (in)justice systems. Progressive change in law is worthless without community vigilance and understanding in seeking its enforcement. Slavery abolition is a people's struggle which must work up
from the deepest grassroots levels.

Grassroots and State Lobbying
Grassroots lobbying combines organizing, assistance and services,
community education about the negative conditions of prison slavery
and political action. An empowering grassroots educational and political tactic is petitioning, and the Petition to Abolish Prison Slavery is a
basic organizing tool. By presenting the Thirteenth Amendment with
its offensive proviso capitalized for emphasis, the document calls attention to the long-ignored exception for slavery in the Constitution:
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.

and asks that the Constitution be amended, deleting the exception for
prison slavery so that the Thirteenth Amendment would read:
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall exist within the
United States or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

The lesson of the old abolitionists' struggle is clear on petitioning:
they so flooded American institutions with their petitions that policy
makers were forced to deal with slavery. Today, slavery is hidden by
government instruments which support it, assumed to have been
abolished by most Americans, and remains unidentified by many prison slaves. The Petition to Abolish Prison Slavery serves as a stimulus
to re-examine failing justice systems, create new understanding, empower habilitation of caged Americans through struggle for their own
emancipation, and lobby for political change.
Petition signatures are obtained everywhere, in churches and in
bars, on street corners and at home, at rallies and at concerts, at community gatherings and by going door to door, through the mail, in prisons and in branches of government. Although many who have signed

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PRISON SLAVERY

C.A.P.S.'s petition have done so immediately, exclaiming that "this ex
ception to slavery explains everything," others have not been as
ready. New truth is often resisted and modern abolitionists need to
embrace people's questions with new knowledge, perspectives and
solutions. Those circulating petitions will not always know all of the
answers. In such circumstances, it is always best to state that you will
research the matter to find the answer.
Political use of petitioning takes two forms, informal and formal. Informal political petitions are used to persuade lawmakers to introduce
local and state legislation calling for abolition of prison slavery and involuntary servitude. Formal use employs the initiativelreferendum process of citizens petitioning to qualify abolitionist legislation for voter
consideration in state elections. Political organizing can be expanded
to support abolitionist candidates and to oppose the election of those
who demonstrate slaveholding positions on prisoners' rights. Continued lobbying is also needed to introduce selected prisoners' rights
legislation such as voting rights, right to petition, freedoms of speech
and press, equal pay for equal work, abolition of the death penalty and
abolition of civil death statutes.* The key objective of state political
organizing is winning support for national legislation and its ultimate
ratification in the various state legislatures.

Prisoner-Support Chapters
The Petition to Abolish Prison Slavery is helping prisoners develop
mutual identity. Recognizing the exception within the Thirteenth
Amendment is the first step in tracing responsibility for suffering to
its source in a philosophical and material system of injustice. It has
helped transform prisoner alienation into constructive class conciousness, stimulating needed unity in the quest for abolition. In correcting the misunderstanding which has kept slavery's victims divided, the struggle to abolish prison slavery calls on the vital wisdom of
this nation's most oppressed class.
Community-based education and action programs are needed to
bridge the abyss of misunderstanding currently existing between outside and inside communities because the key to understanding prison
slavery lies behind prison walls. Prisoners hold that key and abolition
requires the effective participation of prison slaves. As chattel slaves
were most vulnerable to slavemaster retribution when the institutionalized structure of their bondage was attacked, so are prisoners.
The first step of any abolitionist program is to address the survival
needs of those slavery most severely victimizes. From that protection
and advocacy comes the needed participation of the imprisoned, their
family members and the communities from which they come.
*Please see Appendix.

A NEW ABOLITIONIST MOVEMENT

187

Today there is no underground railroad for slave protection and outside abolitionists must reach behind slavery's walls to insure prisoner
participants against special punishments. Such a "lifeline" to emancipation depends on active communication and advocacy sustained
by free abolitionists. Correspondence, visitation and organizing with
prisoners creates this bridge. Together, slaves and abolitionists learn
what must and can be done. Based on the common goal of abolishing
prison slavery, today's slave-and-advocate relationship works against
reprisals facing prisoners who petition for slavery abolition and aims
to empower both participants working together for effective change.
The bulwark of abolition is built on this lifeline.
Through this lifeline, the public can be informed of news of prisoner
oppressions, crisis-provoking prison tensions can be addressed
through legal and political action before riots result, legal and political
protection can be obtained for imprisoned abolitionists, and survival
needs of prisoner family members can be met through communitybased projects which help restore vital family ties.
The most viable support base is prisoner families, most often poor
people without adequate resources to organize for their collective selfdetermination. Abolitionist organizing empowers participants through
projects which address survival needs while creating the means to
organize further. Appropriate projects include emergency food closets, car pool transportation for prison visits, and collective child care.
Establishing a community-based office provides an organizing center
outside prison needed to recruit volunteers, provide services and
assistance, build community education projects, raise funds, petition,
lobby and coordinate other chapter activities.
Abolitionism stresses the need to guard against slaveholding principles which warp programs by claiming to represent the best interests of equality while failing to invoke the participation of the unfree. Without their contributions abolition becomes a pompous label
for activity by the self-righteous and the misled.

Boycotts
Galley slaveryand the convict lease system prospered when blatant
slavery and its clearly visible profits were acceptable. Today, slavery
exists within every prison and jail in every state. The profits from this
exploited labor force are hidden because prisoners work at a variety of
jobs so that no one particular product comes to national attention.
The average citizen pays little attention to the source of slave-made
products since they fall withing the realm of "government" services.
As nineteenth century abolitionists refused to buy fabrics dyed with
slave labor, the renewed abolition movement can draw public attention to the slave economy of many government services. Economic
boycotts work.

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PRISON SLAVERY

Prisons are run by slave labor: laundry, clothing, food, repair and
maintenance, all are done by prisoners. Services provided by prison
slave labor may vary according to the budget needs of each state:
plantation labor, road construction and repair, license plates, computer print-outs for government agencies, standard equipment for
state and veterans' hospitals, furniture used in prisons, government
offices and the homes and offices of correctional personnel, barbeque
grills and picnic tables for state and rest areas, road signs, fire fighting services, prison construction and American flags make up an incomplete list of the products and services provided to the State by the
slave labor of prisoners within "Corporate Penal I n d u s t r i e ~ " A
. ~list of
products sold by the Texas Department of Corrections, for example,
provides the beginning of a list of one state's prison-slave products
which could be targeted for boycott. As reported by a Texas prison
slave, these products include license plates, inspection stickers,
canned goods, boxes, mops, brooms, microfilming, plastic signs,
plastic name tags, furniture, shoes, soaps, street signs and p ~ u l t r yA. ~
Pennsylvania prisoner reports that all "Pencor" products are s~dvemade and easily recognizable by the label advertising their trade
name.
One recent example of a boycott for prisoners' rights is provided by
the internationally supported avoidance of British-made products to
protest denial of political prisoner status for Irish Republican prisoners. Other contemporary examples of boycott effectiveness are
found in the past decade's boycott of grapes and lettuce by the United
Farmworkers' Union and in the more recent boycott of products by
~ e s t l ethe
, international trafficker in infant formulas, especially harmful in third-world countries. Both campaigns won nationwide support
and were instrumental in changing repressive corporate policies. Boycotting prison slavery's products* could create public education and
political pressure. While calling attention to slavery's continuance,
economic action throws a wrench into the slave economy, forcing institutional consideration of slavery-free solutions.
Slavery abolition remains a moral, political, legal and economic
struggle belonging in international, national, state and local arenas.
Today's worldwide condemnation of slavery and involuntary servitude
places a new abolitionist movement on advantaged footing. Least
known, but crucial to the strategy of a United Front, are the various
state constitutional provisos for slavery and involuntary servitude to
punish crime.

-

*Because the sale of their art work is often the most equitable source of income available to prisoners, boycotts should not include prisoner crafts.

A NEW ABOLITIONIST MOVEMENT

189

THE STATES
The war between the North and South was fought to forcibly reunite
a "house divided" over slavery. Since that great Civil War, a common
geographical reference point for socioeconomic and political comparisons has been between states north and south of the old MasonDixon Line.
There is another frame of reference for measuring today's housedivided concept: a prison slavery abolitionist perspective.

A Prison Slavery Abolitionist Perspective
The significance of the various state constitutional provisos on
prison slavery cannot be ignored in a workable strategy for abolition.
Behind each state's modern prison oppressions are laws and traditions in denial of prisoners' rights deeply ingrained from centuries of
practice.
The states fall into four primary catagories: prison slave, changed,
involuntary servitude, and no proviso. Those states whose constitutions call for prison slavery and involuntary servitude are referred to
as prison slave states. Originally there were 29 prison slave states;
now there are 14.
29 ORIGINAL PRISON SLAVE STATES

Those 15 states which changed their prison slavery provisos are
known as changed states. As a result of these constitutional changes,
there are now only 14 prison slave states.

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PRISON SLAVERY

Those 10 states whose constitutions prohibit slavery but provide for
involuntary servitude as a punishment for crime are referred to as involuntary servitude states.
10 INVOLUNTARY SERVITUDE STATES

A NEW ABOLITIONIST MOVEMENT

191

Those 26 states making no mention of either slavery or involuntary
servitude are referred to as no proviso states.

Georgia, for example, is a prison slave state and Article I, Section I
of its constitution blatantly says so:
There shall be within the State of Georgia neither slavery nor
involuntary servitude, SAVE AS A PUNISHMENT FOR CRIME
AFTER LEGAL CONVICTION THEREOF.

Michigan is one of those states whose constitution changed from
prison slave to involuntary servitude. Article 18, Section 11 of its 1850
constitution stated:
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, UNLESS FOR THE
PUNISHMENT OF CRIME, shall ever be 'tolerated in this
State.

In 1963, Michigan became an involuntary servitude state by its new
constitution's Article I, Section 9:
Neither slavery, NOR INVOLUNTARY SERVITUDE UNLESS
FOR THE PUNISHMENT OF CRIME, shall ever be tolerated in
this State.

Montana is a state which changed from prison slave to no proviso.
Article Ill, Section 28 of its 1889 constitution stated:
There shall never be in this state either slavery or involuntary
servitude, EXCEPT AS A PUNISHMENT FOR CRIME,

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PRISON SLAVERY

WHEREOF THE PARTY SHALL HAVE BEEN DULY CONVICTED.

This section was omitted from Montana's 1972 constitution and no
reference was made to either slavery or involuntary servitude.
The notion that prison slavery is an emotional term with no functional significance is refuted by the fact that 15 states have changed
their state constitutional provisos to involuntary servitude or no proviso. There were two major periods of state constitutional changes on
prison slavery, during the period of Radical Reconstruction and the
era of controversy over private business use of prison labor when
seven states changed their slavery provisos; and, again, during the
sixties' and seventies' struggles for civil rights and against the war in
Vietnam, when eight states changed their constitutional provisos. Including the pre-Civil War proviso change iri Iowa during 1857, 15
states changed their constitutional rulings on prison slavery:
3WA (1857)
ALABAMA (1868)

SOUTH CAROLINA (1895)
VIRGINIA (1902)

MICHIGAN (1963)
ORTH CAROLINA (1970)

ALIFORNIA &
OUISIANA (1974)
ARY LAN D (1979)

Excepting Texas, California and Montana, the change states are in
the South and the Northwest Territory. Eight of these 15 are now no
proviso; the remaining seven are involuntary servitude states.
These 15 state governments must be confronted with their constitutional changes, and more research is needed to reveal the political
motivation for each change. Efficient organizing strategy can be
designed following additional research to determine the statistical
signatures of oppression within and among each of the states. Changed states provide important historical examples of legislative dealings with the embarrassing constitutional sore of modern slavery.

California - from Slavery to Involuntary Servitude
Until 1974, California authorized slavery and involuntary servitude
to punish crime. The old Article I, Section 18 read:
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, UNLESS FOR THE
PUNISHMENT OF CRIMES, shall ever be tolerated in thisstate.

A NEW ABOLITIONIST MOVEMENT

193

The prisoners' rights, civil rights and anti-war movements of the late
sixties and early seventies helped influence the California legislature
to amend its state constitution to prohibit "slavery. . .for the punishment of crime." Article I, Section 6 of the 1974 California constitution.
reads:
Slavery is prohibited. Involuntary servitude is prohibited EXCEPT TO PUNISH CRIME.

In 1975, California followed the tradition of other involuntary servitude states by removing its authorization of Civil Death for prisoners
and parolees. Section 2600 of the Penal Code had stated:
A sentence of imprisonment in a state prison for any term
suspends all the civil rights of the person so sentenced, and
forfeits all public offices and all private trusts, authority, or
power during such imprisonment. But the Adult Authority
may restore to said person during his imprisonment such civil
rights as the authority may deem proper.. . 5

The replacement for Section 2600, however, shows little effective
change from the old:
A person sentenced to imprisonment in a state may, during
any such period of confinement, be deprived of such rights,
and only such rights, as is necessary in order to provide for
the reasonable security of the institution in which he is confined and for the reasonable protection of the p ~ b l i c . ~

The institutional structure of Califorina punishment has not changed,
even though its labels have. Prisoners still cannot vote, they are caged
and chained, due process and free expression are severely limited,
they are forced to live in unsafe, crowded and unhealthy environments
with inadequate nutrition and medical care: citizenship rights continue to give way to the "reasonable security" of prison slavery.
Abolition of any form of slavery requires radical change in the institutional structures which have disfranchised and victimized the oppressed. For example, one of the first acts of nineteenth century Radical Reconstruction was passage of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth
Amendments, guaranteeing voting and citizenship rights to emancipated slaves. Rather than restore rights to prisoners, California's
new penal code orders that rights "be deprived. . . in order to provide
for the reasonable security of the institution. . .[and] public." If California legislators were intent on abolishing the perpetuation of slavery, Section 2600 would state:
The 1974 prohibition of "slavery.. .for the punishment of
crimes" in California guarantees that all citizenship, labor
and human rights are restored to prisoners and to persons
henceforth sentenced to state prisons. The inalienable rights

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PRISON SLAVERY

of citizenship, and the practice thereof, are necessary for the
reasonable security of the institution, for the reasonable protection of society, and for the reasonable habilitation of the
offender. During such period of confinement the practice of
these rights shall not be denied but shall be guaranteed.
The hypocrisy of slavery prohibition in California is further illustrated by the 1976 addition of Section 2652.5 to its Penal Code:
Chain or mechanical restraint around neck of prisoner; prohibition; violations misdemeanor

No person employed by the Department of Corrections, the
Department of the Youth Authority, or any city or county jail
facility shall place any chain or other mechanical restraint
around the neck of any prisoner for any purpose. Any violation of this section shall be a misdemeanor.'
Removing a chain from the neck of a slave does not emancipate the
slave, it merely makes less blatant the visible atrocity of human bondage by eliminating one of its symbols. Furthermore, how can shackling a person be merely a misdemeanor in a "slave free" state?
As in other involuntary servitude states, no serious attempt at
"radical reconstruction" occurred in California. The continued denial
of prisoners' rights was merely reworded, camouflaged by replacing
"slavery" with "involuntary servitude." The essential process facing
"involuntary servitude" states is the same process that faced C m gress after the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment. At the very
least, prohibition of slavery must be enforced by guaranteed protection of prisoners' citizenship, voting, and labor rights.
A prison slavery abolition program in California could focus on that
state's 1974 prohibition and unconstitutional continuance of
"slavery. . . t o punish crime." While California has had sufficient time
to promote citizens' understanding of the responsibilities inherent in
its state constitutional change and to establish serious guarantees
for prisoners' rights, it has failed to do so. California prison slavery
abolitionists can cite the relatively meaningless state penal code
changes since 1974 as testimony of this failure. An effective program
for slavery abolition in California could maintain that continued denial
of prisoner citizenship and labor rights be declared unconstitutional,
immediately restrained and all appropriate orders be issued against
further such unconstitutional practices. It could call for establishment of a Caring Community Board with authority to guarantee protection of prisoners' rights as citizens, thereby ensuring radical
reconstruction of that state's prison system, and it could maintain
that monetary damages of no less than $100 per day be awarded to
each prisoner who suffered under the unconstitutional yoke of slavery
since 1974.
Each "involuntary servitude" state continues its unconstitutional
practice of slavery as a punishment for crime; each provides its aboli-

A NEW ABOLITIONIST MOVEMENT

195

tionist citizens with a unique opportunity for struggle. While their constitutions proclaim abolitionist intent, the involuntary servitude states
have merely called slavery by another name. In addition to seeking
state legislative action, citizens of involuntary servitude states can
bring their struggle to the courts where their states' prohibition of
prison slavery could be used to challenge violation of prisoners'
rights. The potential of such litigation is illustrated by a prison slavery
abolitionist analysis of a 1977 U.S. Supreme Court case.

Jones v. the North Carolina Prisoners Union
An important opportunity to use modern slaveholding language
against itself was missed in a 1977 Supreme Court case challenging
denial of First Amendment rights to North Carolina prisoners. North Carolina had changed its constitution to prohibit slavery and permit only involuntary servitude to punish crimes. That state's prior prison slavery
proviso was found in Article I, Section 33 of the 1868 Constitution:
Slavery and involuntary servitude, OTHERWISE THAN FOR
CRIME, WHEREOF THE PARTIES SHALL HAVE BEEN CONVICTED, shall be, and are hereby forever prohibited within
this State.
Article I, Section 17 of the 1970 Constitution ended North Carolina's
license to practice slavery by permitting only involuntary servitude to
punish the convicted:
Slavery is forever prohibited. Involuntary servitude, EXCEPT
AS A PUNISHMENT FOR CRIME WHEREOF THE PARTIES
HAVE BEEN ADJUDGED GUILTY, is forever prohibited.
As a consequence of the new North Carolina Constitution, labor
rights but not citizenship rights could be denied to prisoners. As we
have seen, however, slavery is enforced by means of denying citizenship rights to ensure involuntary servitude, slavery's mode of production. The North Carolina prison system violated prisoners' new constitutional protection from slavery when it prevented them from associating in the North Carolina Prisoners' Union. Prisoners, still under
complete control of the state, were being denied their First Amendment rights and the prison administration violated its state prohibition of "slavery. . . .for crime." Even though the U.S. District Court
granted the North Carolina Prisoners' Union "substantial injunctive
relief, having concluded that prohibiting inmate-to-inmate solicitation
'border[ed] on the irrational,"' the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against
the union, stating that "the challenged [prison] regulations do not
violate the First Amendment as made applicable by the F o ~ r t e e n t h . " ~
The June 23, 1977 U.S. Supreme Court decision on Jones v. The North
Carolina Prisoners' Labor Union, Inc. held that state prison officials

196

PRISON SLAVERY

can prohibit prisoners from asking fellow inmates to join a union, can
refuse to distribute inmates' bulk mailings from outside union organizers, and can prohibit the use of prison facilities for union meetings.
Writing for the Court's majority, Justice William H. Rehnquist stated
that such regulations do not violate a prisoner's rights to freedom of
speech and association since prisoners' First Amendment rights
"must give way to the reasonable regulations of penal management."g
Nowhere were the "reasonable regulations of penal management"
challenged as being based in North Carolina's unconstitutional practice of "slavery. . . .for crime."
In spite of this missed opportunity to challenge the unconstitutional practice of prison slavery in the Court, the dissenting opinions
of Justices Brennan and Marshall provided some hope for future litigation efforts. Written by Justice Marshall, their dissent reminded the
court of the affirmation of prison slavery in the 1871 ruling of Ruffin v.
The Common wealth of Virginia:
There was a time, not so very long ago, when prisoners were
regarded as "slave(s) of the State," having "not only forfeited
(their) liberty, but all (their) personal rights.. ." Ruffin v. The
Commonwealth of Virginia, 62. Va., 790, 792 (1871). In recent
years, however, the courts increasingly have rejected this
view, and with it the corollary which holds that courts should
keep their "hands off" penal institutions. Today, however, the
Court, in apparent fear of a prison reform organization that
has the temerity to call itself a "union," takes a giant step
back towards that discredited conception of prisoners' rights
and the role of the courts. I decline to join in what I hope will
prove to be a temporary defeat. . . . l o

Like the nineteenth century court cases which tossed Dred Scott
and his family from slavery to freedom to slavery again, the "hands on1
hands off" doctrine towards prisoners' rights merely describes United
States judicial policies on slavery: hands off, hands on, then hands off
"slavery. . .as a punishment for crime." Since Ruffin, the courts have
conveniently circumvented reference to the Thirteenth Amendment
with terms such as the "reasonable regulations of penal management" used by Justice Rehnquist. The various state constitutional rulings on prison slavery, however, provide important opportunity for
abolitionists to confront the institutional structure of punishment,
even in the courts.
Had the North Carolina Prisoners' Union focused on the difference
between the U.S. Constitution and the North Carolina Constitution rulings on prison slavery, it might have won its case by using the authority of the Tenth Amendment, which guarantees that all states can
guarantee more but not fewer rights than the federal constitution. It
could have confronted the Supreme Court's judicial responsibility to
uphold the legal meanings of constitutional language through prison
practices by presenting North Carolina's 1970 prohibition of "slav-

A NEW ABOLITIONIST MOVEMENT

197

ery. . . .for crime." The U.S. District Court had been correct in restoring First Amendment rights to North Carolina prisoners and the US.
Supreme Court overstepped its constitutional authority by granting
fewer rights to prisoners than authorized by Article I, Section 17 of the
North Carolina Constitution.

Maryland - A Timely Example
Shortly after the American Civil War, the Thirteenth Amendment to
the United States Constitution passed through the two houses of Congress, was submitted to the states for ratification and was certified as
law on December 18, 1865. In 1867, Maryland added the then new Article 24 to its Declaration of Rights.
THAT SLAVERY SHALL NOT BE RE-ESTABLISHED IN THIS
STATE; but having been abolished under the policy and
authority of the United States, compensation, in consideration thereof, is due from the United States.

112 years later, in 1979, Article 24 was completely removed from the
Maryland Constitution. At first glance it would seem appropriate to
eliminate the antiquated last portion. However, upon careful examination we note that this legislative action nullified the progressive first
portion ("That slavery shall not be re-established in this State") by
allowing sanction for prison slavery to be "re-established" in Maryland under the authority of the Thirteenth Amendment. Simply, rescinding of Article 24 deferred constitutional authority on slavery from
Maryland to the U.S. Constitution's Thirteenth Amendment whereby
slavery is sanctioned "as a punishment for crime."
The US. Constitution allows each state to grant more rights, but not
fewer than exist on the federal level. Upon C.A.P.S.'s informing
Maryland House of Delegates Representative Wendell Phillips of his
state's error in nullifying its abolitionist ruling, Delegate Phillips decided to introduce legislation to amend the Maryland State Constitution to "abolish and prohibit slavery absolutely." On February 29,
1980, Delegate Phillips submitted his proposed amendment to the
Maryland House of Delegates' Constitutional and Administrative Law
Committee.* C.A.P.S. testified at this hearing, criticizing the rescinding of all of Article 24 in 1979, explaining the meaning of Maryland's
legislative history, and urging solicitation of prisoner participation in
designing legislation in their own behalf.
If the 1980 bill had passed, it would have abolished the permissible
practice of slavery as a punishment for crime in Maryland by requiring
Maryland to discontinue those aspects of punishment which can be
fairly regarded as attributes of slavery. In their simplest context, those
attributes are denial of the practice of citizenship, labor, and human
*Please see Appendix for the 1980 proposed legislation in Maryland.

198

PRISON SLAVERY

rights t o prisoners. The bill did n o t pass t h e Constitutional and Administrative L a w Committee.
In 1981, Delegate Phillips introduced further legislation t o abolish
prison slavery a n d C.A.P.S. sent t h e f o l l o w i n g c o m m u n i c a t i o n t o i t s
members a n d t o Maryland legislators i n support of that legislation:
We respectfully urge your support of Maryland House Joint
Resolution No. 70, "A House Joint Resolution concerning Slavery or Involuntary Servitude for the purpose of urging the
amendment of the United States Constitution to remove any
trace of the acceptability of slavery or involuntary servitude. . . "
Most legislators do not know that slavery is still legal or
that the United States Constitution authorizes slave punishment within the Thirteenth Amendment. Nor do legislators
know that prisoners are slaves through the institutionalized
denial of the practices of their citizenship, labor and human
rights. The abolition of prison slavery would mean the restoration of prisoners' rights to vote, free speech, due process,
freedom from undue search and seizure, freedom from cruel
and unusual punishment (slavery is just this), the right to a
just and equitable wage for their labor, the right to join a labor
union, and many more inalienable rights which are currently
being denied to prisoners.
In seeking your support of House Joint Resolution No. 70,
we ask that you consider the following unheeded appeal by
Senator Charles Sumner in 1864:
In placing a new and important text into our Constitution, it seems to me we cannot be too careful
in the language we adopt. . . . Therefore, it seems
to me, we have every motive, the strongest inducement in the world, to make that language as perfect as possible.
In due respect to the spirit of the proposed bill, we further
request that prisoners be included in the democratic process
which will consider passage of House Joint Resolution No.
70. Their testimony and representation is an important part of
the emancipative process and would demonstrate the State
of Maryland's clarity in considering this most historic appeal
to the U.S. Congress.
The failure o f these t w o legislative appeals provides important les-

sons for twenty-first century abolitionists. Maryland citizens were not
informed about t h e practices o f prison slavery i n their state, prisoners
were n o t consulted o r asked t o testify in behalf o f their best interests
and n o preparation was m a d e t o create a needed grassroots movement t o participate i n designing legislation o r t o lobby in i t s behalf.
Simply put, those pushing for submission o f t h e legislation failed t o
accept responsibility for bridging t h e abyss between t h e outside and
inside c o m m u n i t i e s so that their proposed change in l a w would b e
representative o f t h e w i l l o f a large abolitionist c o m m u n i t y inside and

A NEW ABOLITIONIST MOVEMENT

199

outside prison walls. The lesson for abolition is clear: legislative efforts to abolish slavery must be accompanied by grassroots organizing and lobbying efforts from the bottom up. Without community participation in this process, we face probable failure of well-meaning
legislation, possible misrepresentation of the needs of prisoners and
community members, and a misrepresentation of the very democratic
process which abolition seeks to correct and expand.
Since abolition cannot be achieved until slavery is prohibited and
that prohibition enforced, the 1980 proposed bill to amend the Maryland Constitution - "That slavery is abolished and shall be prohibited
absolutely" - was technically incorrect and misleading. If passed, the
1980 bill could have served to make Maryland citizens assume there
was no need for radical reconstruction of state penal practices. However, the 1981 proposed legislation, which would have called on Congress to amend the Thirteenth Amendment, was far more representative of abolitionist needs, citing the U.S. Constitution's authorization for prison slavery and consequent violation of the United Nations
Declaration of Human Rights.

State by State Abolition
When a people's status is reduced by denying them practice of their
citizenship rights, they become slaves and their bondage cannot be
legitimized or camouflaged by not mentioning it or calling it something other than it is. To a lesser or greater degree, all states deny or
negate prisoners' citizenship, labor and human rights; all states practice slavery as a punishment for crime. Regardless of constitutional
category, each state practices prison slavey and each community
bears its own responsibility for slaveholding. Abolition must expose
local and state traditions, laws and practices in slave punishment and
eradicate them, one by one. As Germantown Quakers gave up slaveholding in 1648 and were followed by all Quakers in 1806, so the power
of abolition can spread from one community through an entire state
and the nation.

UNITED NATIONS APPEAL
The international authority in support for the proposed abolitionist
legislation in the United States is found in Article 4 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Article 4. No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery
and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms. [Emphasis added.]

In 1967, the United States Senate ratified the "Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions

200

PRISON SLAVERY

and Practices Similar to Slavery." Simply put, the Senate ratified Article 4 of the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights.
The obvious contradiction is that, unlike the Thirteenth Amendment
to the U.S. Constitution, Article4 contains no exception for eitherslavery or involuntary servitude - both are "prohibited in all their forms."
Hence, the United States seems to be in violation of an international
treaty on human rights.
The 1981 proposed Maryland House Resolution No. 70 addressed
this violation of international treaty by maintaining:
WHEREAS, With the states' ratification of Amendment Xlll
of the United States Constitution in 1865, the legality of slavery and involuntary servitude was restricted to "punishment
for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted";
and
WHEREAS, With the United States Senate's ratification of
the Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery,
the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to
Slavery in 1967, we recognized the illegality of the "status or
condition of a person over wh-om any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised"; and
WHEREAS, We have become increasingly aware that by accepting as just any form of slavery or involuntary servitude we
reduce a human being's personhood and are responsible for
the abominable consequences that flow therefrom; and
WHEREAS, In spite of this growing awareness, United
States Courts have been bound by Amendment Xlll of the
Constitution to accept the proposition that "the labor of a
convict belongs to the state"; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF MARYLAND,
That the United States Constitution should be amended to remove any trace of the acceptability of slavery or involuntary
servitude;. . . .

While the above resolution never received full consideration by
either house of the Maryland state legislature, it serves to show the
importance of international appeal. Abolitionist appeal to the United
Nations could bring world-wide pressure to bear on the United States
to abolish its prison slave practices, thereby providing important
assistance to a campaign for national abolitionist legislation.

NATIONAL LEGISLATION
The national legislative focus of a United Front to Abolish Prison
Slavery would be amendment of the Thirteenth Amendment to prohi bit all slavery and involuntary servitude and passage of supporting
laws to enforce that prohibition.

A NEW ABOLITIONIST MOVEMENT

201

Thirteenth Amendment:

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.
Proposed Amendment Change:

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall exist within the
United States or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Prohibition would be accomplished by amending the Thirteenth
Amendment; abolition would begin when the newly worded amendment is enforced by supporting law.

Prohibition
There are three basic stages to amending the Constitution to prohibit all slavery and involuntary servitude: writing and submitting a bill
to Congress to prohibit all slavery and involuntary servitude; passage
of the proposed Amendment by two-thirds majority in each house of
Congress; and ratification of the new Amendment by 38 states, threequarters of the United States. Each stage requires sustained grassroots and legislative lobbying from a well-coordinated national base.
As exemplified by the nineteenth century abolition struggle, arriving at the first stage of national prohibition involves a protracted campaign. While the old movement laid the groundwork by prohibiting
chattel slavery, misrepresentation of the continued practice of prison
slavery must be understood and eliminated to ensure that a new
amendment leaves no provision for slavery under any other name.
Complete and explicit prohibition of involuntary servitude is absolutely essential.
Once enough Congressional allies agree to sponsor a bill prohibiting prison slavery and involuntary servitude, intensive lobbying and
abolitionist education will be needed throughout Congress. As before,
slaveholding lawmakers will adopt different forms of resistance, the
danger in their efforts being explicit enforcement of slave punishments or c o m ~ r o m i s eof an abolitionist victory.
The success of the correct rewording of the Thirteenth Amendment
and its subsequent passage depends on the amount of pressure coming from the grassroots and international levels. The old movement
kept pressure on Congress from their communities, from millions of
petitioners, through the separate abolitionist victories in each state
and with the help of vocal support abroad. Successful organizing
would combine state-by-state victories with effective petitioning of
the United Nations to achieve national prohibition.

202 PRISON SLAVERY

Perhaps the best example of what is needed to win ratification is
found in examining the long struggle for the Equal Rights Amendment,
a movement also rooted in nineteenth century abolitionism. Most significant in this recent lesson of parliamentary struggle is the growing
power of relatively small groups of opponents of equality. With wellfunded campaigns they have sent their powerful allies to influence the
political process and have infiltrated the media and flooded the mails
with convincing deceit aimed at creating opposition to the E.R.A.
While their numbers are small, their financial backing is strong. Prison slavery abolitionists have the same opponents. Changing the Constitution to prohibit all slavery will depend on preparing ground for
abolition: grassroots organizing and state by state constitutional
changes can build national victory.

Abolition
Prohibition is only the beginning; abolition requires radical
reconstruction of our systems of justice. It is the building of a community of care, a safe society which replaces vindictive punishment
with habilitation, restitution and social justice. Abolition enforces
equality instead of exploitation, cutting out all remnants of slavery
root and branch.
In the second section of the Thirteenth Amendment, the Constitution states:
Sec. 2. Congress shall have the power to enforce this article
by appropriate legislation.

Congressional response to this mandate for enforcement came during the short but official post-bellum period of Radical Reconstruction
when the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments were passed granting citizenship and voting rights to former slaves. Both of these
amendments also had sections calling for Congressional enforcement. The most recent application of reconstructionist law came
when the Voting Rights Act was passed at the height of the civil rights
movement, banning the use of literacy tests, poll taxes and other devices used to keep black and other minority citizens from voting and
requiring those states with a history of voting rights discrimination to
obtain clearance ahead of time from the Justice Department for any
changes in state or local election laws.
After the first section of the Thirteenth Amendment is amended to
abolish all slavery and involuntary servitude, the second section will
be needed to enforce prison slavery prohibition. Abolition of prison
slavery requires "radical reconstruction" at many levels: restoring the
right to vote to the convicted as well as other protections and practices of citizenship, returning their labor rights as citizens, and the enforcement of their human rights in all aspects of their treatment, in-

A NEW ABOLITIONIST MOVEMENT

203

cluding the right to healthful living conditions. The death penalty, the
ultimate expression of slavemaster power, must be eliminated; the
building of human cages must also stop. Each negative condition now
suffered must end: prisoners can tell you what they are - ask them.
By removing the yoke of slavery from our systems of justice, we will
also open the way to alternatives to imprisonment: victim-offender
mediation, victim restitution, community service, counseling and
teaching for those that need them. Eventually, prison will take its
place in a history which will refer to a time long past when humankind
had not yet learned how to heal.

CONCLUSION
Much remains to be done before Americans grasp the reality of the
exception to slavery within our Constitution and how it epitomizes the
many sufferings of prisoners. Meanwhile, continued denial of the
practices of citizenship, labor and human rights in our nation's systems of punishment makes a mockery of any attempt to create a truly
safe society. There can be no Safe Society without a Caring Community, and there can be no Caring Community which permits "slavery. . .
as a punishment for crime."
Abolition is a struggle for universal emancipation. As one prisoner
put it, "You won't find members of the ruling clique in places like this,
but you will find their victims." The exception to slavery in the Constitution represents many inequalities Americans have yet to eliminate. There will be - as there presently are and as history has shown
there to be - many twists and turns, ebbs and flows in the road to
abolition. We have proposed organizing projects which can accomplish the work needed to produce an abolitionist movement for the
1980's and beyond and we have sought to clarify the unity of struggle
which abolition requires.
The problem of prison slavery, like its historical counterparts, cannot be separated from the need for fundamental progressive change
in the social, political and economic structure of the United States.
The abolition of prison slavery is an integral part of that change.
The task is ours - together, we must begin.

204

PRISON SLAVERY

1. Lerner, p. 305.
2. "Remarks of Warren E. Burger, Chief Justice of the United States, at the
University of Nebraska," December 16, 1981, Lincoln, Ne. (Washington, D.C.:
Supreme Court Public Information Office), p. 2.
3. Burkhardt, pp. 284-286.
4. "A Few of the Products Available from T.D.C.," as listed in a Texas prisoner's letter and published in the Spring 1980 issue of C.A.P.S.' newsletter The
Abolitionist:
License Plates
Inspection Stickers
Cattle
Canned Goods
Boxes
Mops
Brooms
Scouring Powders
Soaps
Furniture
Building Materials
Shoes
Complete Microfilming
Automobile Repairs
Engine Repairs

Diesel Mechanics
Dental Prosthetics
Plastic Signs
Plastic Name Tags
Swine
Clothes
Uniforms
Laundry
Dry Cleaning
Mattresses
Wielding and Stock Trailers
Street Signs
Building Trades
Bus Renovations
Poultry

5. West's Annotated California Codes, Penal Code (St. Paul, Minn.: West
Publishing Company, 1970), vol. 51A, p. 48.

6. West's Annotated California Codes, Penal Code, Volume 51A Supplernentary Pamphlet 1970 to 1981, p. 14.
7. Ibid., p. 21.
8. Jones v. North Carolina PrisonersJ Union, Inc., 433 U.S. 119 (1976).
9. Ibid., p. 132.
10. Ibid., p. 139.

Appendix
The States

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 207
Involuntary Servitude State Constitutions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 211
No Proviso State Constitutions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 215
Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .222
Prison Slave State Constitutions

Civil Death Statutes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .223

Proposed Maryland Legislation

.

House Bill No 1087(1980) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .224

.

House Joint Resolution No 70 (1981)

Petition to Abolish Prison Slavery

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 225

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 227

THE STATES

207

PRISON SLAVE STATE CONSTITUTIONS
ARKANSAS
COLORADO
GEORGIA
INDIANA
KENTUCKY
M l N N ESOTA
MISSISSIPPI

NEBRASKA
NEVADA
NORTH DAKOTA
OREGON
TENNESSEE
UTAH
WISCONSIN

CONSTITUTION OF ARKANSAS
Article 5, Section 37 (1868)
No citizen of this State shall be disfranchised, or deprived of any
rights or privileges secured to any citizen thereof, unless the same is
done by the law of the land, or the judgement of his peers, except as
hereinafter provided. There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary
servitude, either by indentures, apprenticeships, or otherwise, in the
State, EXCEPT FOR THE PUNISHMENT OF CRIME, WHEREOF THE
PARTY SHALL HAVE BEEN DULY CONVICTED.
NOTE:
Arkansas "was re-admitted to representation in Congress, upon the
fundamental condition that its Constitution should never be amended
or changed so as to deprive any citizen or class of citizens of the
United States of the right to vote, who were entitled to vote by the Constitution then recognized, except as a punishment for such crimes as
are now felonies at common law, whereof they shall have been duly
convicted, under laws equally applicable to all the inhabitants of the
State. . . "I

Article 2, Section 27 (1874)
There shall be no slavery in this State, nor involuntary servitude, EXCEPT AS A PUNISHMENT FOR CRIME.. . .

CONSTITUTION OF COLORADO
Article 2, Section 26 (1876)
Slavery Prohibited. There shall never be in this state either slavery or
involuntary servitude, EXCEPT AS A PUNISHMENT FOR CRIME,
WHEREOF THE PARTY SHALL HAVE BEEN DULY CONVICTED.

CONSTITUTION OF GEORGIA
Article I, Section 4 (1868)
Sec. 4. There shall be within the State of Georgia neither slavery nor

208 APPENDIX

involuntary servitude, SAVE AS A PUNISHMENT FOR CRIME AFTER
LEGAL CONVICTION THEREOF.

Art. I, Sec. 1 Paragraph XIX. Slavery and Involuntary Servitude. (Current)
Same wording as Article I, Section 4 of the Constitution of 1868.
This section was S-2117 of the 1945 Constitution.

CONSTITUTION OF INDIANA
Article I, Section 37 (1851)
There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude within the
State, OTHERWISE THAN FOR THE PUNISHMENT OF CRIMES,
WHEREOF THE PARTY SHALL HAVE BEEN DULY CONVICTED. No
indenture of any Negro or Mulatto, made and executed out of the
bounds of the State, shall be valid within the State.
Article I, Section 37 (Current)
Slavery Prohibited. There shall be neither slavery, nor involuntary servitude, within the State, OTHERWISE THAN FOR THE PUNISHMENT
OF CRIMES, WHEREOF THE PARTY SHALL HAVE BEEN DULY CONVICTED. No indenture of any Negro or Mulatto, made and executed
out of the bounds of the State, shall be valid within the State.

CONSTITUTION OF KENTUCKY
Article I, Section 25 (1891)
Slavery, except as a punishment, forbidden. Slavery and involuntary servitude in this state are forbidden, EXCEPT AS A PUNISHMENT FOR
CRIME, WHEREOF THE PARTY SHALL HAVE BEEN DULY CONVICTED.

CONSTITUTION OF MINNESOTA
Article I, Section 2 (1857)
Sec. 2. No member of this State shall be disfranchised, or deprived of
any of the rights or privileges secured to any citizen thereof, unless by
the law of the land, or the judgement of his peers. There shall be
neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the State OTHERWISE
THAN IN THE PUNISHMENT OF CRIME, WHEREOF OF THE PARTY
SHALL HAVE BEEN DULY CONVICTED.
Article I, Section 2 (Current)
Sec. 2. No member of this state shall be disfranchised or deprived of
any of the rights or privileges secured to any citizen thereof, unless by
the law of the land or the judgement of his peers. There shall be

THE STATES 209

neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the state OTHERWISE
THAN AS PUNISHMENT FOR A CRIME OF WHICH THE PARTY HAS
BEEN CONVICTED.

CONSTITUTION OF MISSISSIPPI
Article I, Section 19 (1868)
Sec. 19. There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in this
State, OTHERWISE THAN IN THE PUNISHMENT OF CRIME, WHEREOF THE PARTY SHALL HAVE BEEN DULY CONVICTED.
Article 3, Section 15 (Current)
Same wording as Article I, Section 19 of the 1868 Constitution.

CONSTITUTION OF NEBRASKA
Article I, Section 2 (1875)
Sec. 2. There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in this
state, OTHERWISE THAN FOR PUNISHMENT OF CRIME, WHEREOF
THE PARTY SHALL HAVE BEEN DULY CONVICTED.

CONSTITUTION OF NEVADA
Article I, Section 17 (1864)
Sec. 17. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, UNLESS FOR THE
PUNISHMENT OF CRIMES, shall ever be tolerated in this State.

CONSTITUTION O F NORTH DAKOTA
Article I, Section 17 (1889)
Sec. 17. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, UNLESS FOR THE
PUNISHMENT OF CRIME, shall ever be tolerated in this state.

CONSTITUTION OF OREGON
Article I, Section 35 (1857)
Sec. 35. There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the
State, OTHERWISE THAN AS A PUNISHMENT FOR CRIME, WHEREOF THE PARTY SHALL HAVE BEEN DULY CONVICTED.
Article I, Section 34. Slavery or involuntary servitude. (Current)
Same as Article I, Section 35 of Constitution of 1857.

210

APPENDIX

CONSTITUTION OF TENNESSEE
Article I (1870)
Sec. 33. That slavery and involuntary servitude, EXCEPT AS A PUNISHMENT FOR CRIME, WHEREOF THE PARTY SHALL HAVE BEEN
DULY CONVICTED, are forever prohibited in this State.
Sec. 34. The General Assembly shall make no law recognizing the
right of property in man.
Sec. 33. Slavery prohibited (Current)
Same as in 1870 Constitution.
Compiler's Notes. Section 33 did not appear in the Constitution of 1796 and 1834.
The amendments to the Constitution made February 22,
1865, abolishing slavery in this state were substantially the
same as S 33, 34 of this article. . . .
Slavery was recognized and protected by the Constitution
of the United States, until abolished by the 13th amendment,
becoming effective the 18th day of February, 1865. By the
fourth condition in North Carolina's cession act ceding to the
United States the territory subsequently becoming the State
of Tennessee, it was provided "That no regulations made or
to be made by congress shall tend to emancipate slave^."^

Sec. 34. Right of property in man. (Current)
Same as Article I, Section 34 of 1870 Constitution.

CONSTITUTION OF UTAH
Article I, Section 21 (1896)
Sec. 21. Slavery forbidden
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, EXCEPT AS A PUNISHMENT
FOR CRIME, WHEREOF THE PARTY SHALL HAVE BEEN DULY CONVICTED, shall exist within this State.

CONSTITUTION OF WISCONSIN
Article I, Declaration of Rights (1848)
Sec. 2. There shall be neither slavery, nor involuntary servitude in this
state, OTHERWISE THAN FOR THE PUNISHMENT OF CRIME,
WHEREOF THE PARTY SHALL HAVE BEEN DULY CONVICTED.
This state was the fifth and last one formed out of the Ter.
ritory North-West of the Ohio River, established in 1787.3

THE STATES

21 1

INVOLUNTARY SERVITUDE
STATE CONSTITUTIONS
ALABAMA
CALIFORNIA
IOWA
KANSAS
LOUISIANA

MICHIGAN
NORTH CAROLINA
OHIO
RHODE ISLAND
VERMONT

CONSTITUTION OF ALABAMA
(Changed State)
Article I, Section 34 (1865)
Sec. 34. That hereafter there shall be in this State neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, OTHERWISE THAN FOR THE PUNISHMENT OF
CRIME, WHEREOF THE PARTY SHALL HAVE BEEN DULY CONVICTED.
Article I, Section 35 (1868)
Sec. 35. That no form of slavery shall exist in this State; and there
shall be no involuntary servitude, OTHERWISE THAN FOR THE PUNISHMENT OF CRIME, OF WHICH THE PARTY SHALL HAVE BEEN
DULY CONVICTED.
Article I, Section 33 (1875)
Same as in 1868, Article I, Section 35.
Article I, Section 32 (1901)
Sec. 32. That no form of slavery shall exist in this state; and there shall
not be any involuntary servitude, OTHERWISE THAN FOR THE PUNISHMENT OF CRIME, OF WHICH THE PARTY SHALL HAVE BEEN
DULY CONVICTED.

CONSTITUTION OF CALIFORNIA
(Changed State)
Article I, Section 18 (1849)
Sec. 18. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, UNLESS FOR THE
PUNISHMENT OF CRIMES, shall ever be tolerated in this State.
Article I, Section 6 (1974)
Sec. 6. Slavery is prohibited. Involuntary servitude is prohibited EXCEPT TO PUNISH CRIME.

212

APPENDIX

CONSTITUTION OF IOWA
(Changed State)
Article I, Section 23 (1846)
Sec. 23. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, UNLESS FOR THE
PUNISHMENT OF CRIMES, shall ever be tolerated in this State.
Article I, Section 23 (1857)
Sec. 23. There shall be no slavery in this State; nor shall there be involuntary servitude, UNLESS FOR THE PUNISHMENT OF CRIME.

CONSTITUTION OF KANSAS
Bill of Rights, Section 6 /1859)
Sec. 6. Slavery prohibited. There shall be no slavery in this state; and
no involuntary servitude, EXCEPT FOR THE PUNISHMENT OF CRIME,
WHEREOF THE PARTY SHALL HAVE DULY CONVICTED.

CONSTITUTION OF LOUISIANA
(Changed State)
Title I, Article 3 (1868)
Art. 3. There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in this
State, OTHERWISE THAN FOR THE PUNISHMENT OF CRIME,
WHEREOF THE PARTY SHALL HAVE BEEN DULY CONVICTED.
Article I, Section 3. Right to Individual Dignity (1974)
Sec. 3. No person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws. No
law shall discriminate against a person because of race or religious
ideas, beliefs, or affiliations. No law shall arbitrarily, capriciously, or
unreasonably discriminate against a person because of birth, age,
sex, culture, physical condition, or political ideas or affiliations.
Slavery and involuntary servitude are prohibited, EXCEPT IN THE LATTER CASE AS PUNISHMENT FOR CRIME.

CONSTITUTION OF MICHIGAN
(Changed State)
Article 18, Section 11 (1850)
Sec. 11. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, UNLESS FOR THE
PUNISHMENT OF CRIME, shall ever be tolerated in this State.
Article 2, Section 8 (1908)
Same as Article 18, Section 11 of 1850 Constitution.

THE STATES

213

Article 1, Section 9 (1963)
Sec. 9. Slavery and involuntary servitude. Neither slavery, nor involuntary servitude UNLESS FOR THE PUNISHMENT OF CRIME, shall ever
be tolerated in this state.
Convention Comment
No change from Sec. 8, Article ll, of the present [I9081 constitution except for the insertion of a comma after the word
"slavery" and elimination of a comma after the word "servitude". The old punctuation conceivably made slavery permissible as a punishment for crime.4

CONSTITUTION OF NORTH CAROLINA
(Changed State)
Article I, Section 33 (1868)
Sec. 33. Slavery and involuntary servitude, OTHERWISE THAN FOR
CRIME, WHEREOF THE PARTIES SHALL HAVE BEEN CONVICTED,
shall be, and are hereby forever prohibited within this State.

Article I, Section 17 (1970)
Sec. 17. Slavery and involuntary servitude. Slavery is forever prohibited. Involuntary servitude, EXCEPT AS A PUNISHMENT FOR CRiME
WHEREOF THE PARTIES HAVE BEEN ADJUDGED GUILTY, is forever
prohibited.

CONSTITUTION OF OHIO
(Changed State)
Northwest Territory Ordinance, Article 6 (1787)
Art. 6. There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the
said territory, OTHERWISE THAN IN THE PUNISHMENT OF CRIMES,
WHEREOF THE PARTY SHALL HAVE BEEN DULY CONVICTED; Provided, always, that any person escaping into the same, from whom
labor or service is lawfully claimed in any one of the original States,
said fugitive may be lawfully reclaimed and conveyed to the person
claiming his or her labor or service as aforesaid.
Article 8, Section 2 (1802 Constitution of Ohio)
Sec. 2. There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in this
state, OTHERWISE THAN FOR THE PUNISHMENT OF CRIMES,
WHEREOF THE PARTY SHALL HAVE BEEN DULY CONVICTED; nor
shall any male person, arrived at the age of twenty-one years, or female person arrived at the age of eighteen years, be held to serve any
person as a servant, under the pretense of indenture or otherwise, unless such person shall enter into such indenture while in a state of
perfect freedom, and on condition of a bona fide consideration receiv-

214

APPENDIX

ed, or to be received, for their service, EXCEPT AS BEFORE EXCEPTED. Nor shall any indenture of any negro or mulatto, hereafter
made and executed out of the state, or if made in the state, where the
term of service exceeds one year, be of the least validiity, except those
given in the case of apprenticeships.

Article I, Section 6 (1851)
Sec. 6. There shall be no slavery in this state, nor involuntary servitude, UNLESS FOR THE PUNISHMENT OF CRIME.
Article I, Section 6 (1912)
Sec. 6. Slavery and involuntary servitude. There shall be no slavery in
this state; nor involuntary servitude, UNLESS FOR THE PUNISHMENT
OF CRIME.
Note the difference between the two versions of Art. I, Sec. 6 contained in punctuation: the 1851 version has a comma (,) after the word
"slavery" while the 1912 version has a semicolon (;). This singular
alteration created great change in meaning of Ohio's constitutional
law: from slavery and involuntary servitude "FOR THE PUNISHMENT
OF CRIME'' in 1851 to involuntary servitude without slavery "FOR THE
PUNISHMENT OF CRIMEJ' in 1912.

CONSTITUTION OF RHODE ISLAND
Article I, Section 4 (1842)
Sec. 4. Slavery shall not be permitted in this State.

CONSTITUTION OF VERMONT
Chapter I, Article 1st (1793)
Art. 1st. That all men are born equally free and independent, and have
certain natural, inherent, and unalienable rights, amongst which are
the enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing and
protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety; therefore no person born in this country, or brought from over sea,
ought to be holden by law, to serve any person as a servant, slave or
apprentice, after he arrives to the age of twenty-one years, unless he
is bound by his own consent, after he arrives to such age, or bound by
law for the payment of debts, damages, fines, costs, or the like.
Annotations
4. Slavery. No inhabitant of this state can hold a slave. Selectmen of Windsor v. Jacob (1802) 2 Tyl. 192.5

THE STATES

215

NO PROVISO STATE CONSTITUTIONS
ALASKA
ARIZONA
CONNECTICUT
DELAWARE
FLORIDA
HAWAII
IDAHO
ILLINOIS
MAINE
MARYLAND
MASSACHUSETTS
MISSOURI
MONTANA

NEW HAMPSHIRE
NEW JERSEY
NEW MEXICO
NEW YORK
OKLAHOMA
PENNSYLVANIA
SOUTH CAROLINA
SOUTH DAKOTA
TEXAS
VIRGINIA
WASHINGTON
WEST VIRGINIA
WYOMING

CONSTITUTION OF ALASKA
NO PROVISO
Article I, Sec. 12 (1956)
Sec. 12. Excessive Punishment. Excessive bail shall not be required
nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. Penal administration shall be based on the principle of reformation and upon the need for protection of the public.

CONSTITUTION OF ARIZONA
NO PROVISO

CONSTITUTION OF CONNECTICUT
NO PROVISO

CONSTITUTION OF DELAWARE
NO PROVISO

CONSTITUTION OF FLORIDA
(Changed State)
Declaration of Rights (1868)
Sec. 18. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, UNLESS FOR THE
PUNISHMENT OF CRIME, shall ever be tolerated in this State.

216

APPENDIX

Declaration of Rights (1885)
Sec. 19. Slavery prohibited; penal servitude. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, EXCEPT AS A PUNISHMENT FOR CRIME,
WHEREOF THE PARTY HAS BEEN DULY CONVICTED, shall ever be
allowed in this State.
Historical Note
The Constitution of 1868, in which this section first appeared, did not specify that one must be duly convicted before the imposition of involuntary servitude as a punishment
for crime."

NO PROVISO (1968 Revision)
References to slavery and involuntary servitude omitted from the
1968 Declaration of Rights.
The 1968 revision of the Florida Constitution omitted Section 19 of the
1885 Declaration of Rights; and in 1969, Florida "transferred all powers,
duties and functions of the division of corrections of the board of commissioners of state institutions to the division of adult corrections. . .of
the department of health and rehabilitative service^."^

CONSTITUTION OF HAWAII
NO PROVISO

CONSTITUTION OF IDAHO
NO PROVISO

CONSTITUTION OF ILLINOIS
(Changed State)
Article 4, Section 1 (1818)
Sec. 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall hereafter be
introduced into this State, OTHERWISE THAN FOR THE PUNISHMENT OF CRIMES, WHEREOF THE PARTY SHALL HAVE BEEN DULY
CONVICTED. . . .
Article 13, Section 16 (1848)
Sec. 16. There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in this
state, EXCEPT AS A PUNISHMENT FOR CRIME WHEREOF THE PARTY SHALL HAVE BEEN DULY CONVICTED.
NO PROVISO

(1870)

THE STATES

217

CONSTITUTION OF MAINE
NO PROVISO

CONSTITUTION OF MARYLAND
(Changed State)
Declaration of Rights, Article 24 (1867)
Art. 24. THAT SLAVERY SHALL NOT BE RE-ESTABLISHED IN THIS
STATE; but having been abolished under the policy and authority of
the United States, compensation, in consideration thereof, is due
from the United States.

NO PROVISO (1979)

CONSTITUTION OF MASSACHUSETTS
NO PROVISO
(See PENNSYLVANIA)

CONSTITUTION OF MISSOURI
(Changed State)
From American Constitutions by Franklin B. Hough:
A petition from the Territorial Legislature, asking for a State
government, was received in Congress December 18, 1818,
which was referred to the Committee on Territories. On the
13th of February, 1819, the House went into Committee of the
Whole and took up the bill upon this subject, and several
amendments were adopted on the 15th, the most important of
which, moved General James Tallmadge, of New York, was as
follows:
"And provided, also, that the further introduction of slavery
or involuntary servitude be prohibited, EXCEPT FOR THE
PUNISHMENT OF CRIMES, WHEREOF THE PARTY SHALL
HAVE BEEN DULY CONVICTED; and that all children of
slaves, born within the said State, after the admission thereof
into the Union, shall be free, but may be held to service until
the age of twenty-five years."
This amendment was adopted by a vote of 87 to 76, upon
that part ending with the word "convicted," and upon the residue, by a vote of 82 to 78. In this form it was referred back to
the House, and on a third reading it passed, as amended, by a
vote of 98 to 56.
In the Senate, the latter part of the amendment was
stricken out, by a vote of 27 to 7, and on the remainder, the

218

APPENDIX

vote for striking out was 22 to 16. Upon being referred back to
the House. they refused to concur, by vote of 69 to 74, and so
the bill was lost. . . .
When the war of the rebellion began, the Governor of
Missouir (C.F. Jackson) proved to be in sympathy with secession, and a strong effort was made to carry this State with the
South. The Legislature voted, on the 16th of January, 1861, to
call a Convention, which was elected, and met on the 28th of
February, 1861; but that body proved to be in favor of remaining in the Federal Union, and refused to secede therefrom. It
remained in existence by adjourments until the 1st of July,
1863. In October, a remnant of the Legislature who adhered to
the fortunes of the rebellion, were assembled by Governor
Jackson at Neosho, and went through the farce of secession.
The Constitutional quorum of the Legislature was 67 in the
House and 17 in the Senate; but at the session at Neosho,
there were present but 35 of the former, and 10 of the latter. A
few days after they were joined by five other members and
one Senator, which was the nearest approach made to a quorum in either House.
Nevertheless, persons claiming to have been elected, appeared to represent Missouri in the Confederate Congress in
December, 1861, and the shadow of a State government in
sympathy with the rebellion, continued for some time after.8

Article I, Section 2 (1865)
Sec. 2. That there cannot be in this state either slavery or involuntary
servitude, EXCEPT IN PUNISHMENT OF CRIME, WHEREOF THE PARTY SHALL HAVE BEEN DULY CONVICTED.
Article 2, Section 31. (1875)
Sec. 31. Slavery prohibited. That there cannot be in this State either slavery or involuntary servitude, EXCEPT AS A PUNISHMENT FOR CRIME,
WHEREOF THE PARTY SHALL HAVE BEEN DULY CONVICTED.
NO PROVISO (1945)
Constitution of 1945 makes no reference to slavery or involuntary
servitude - 1875 Article 2, Section 31 is omitted.

CONSTITUTION OF MONTANA
(Changed State)
Article 3, Section 28 (1889)
Sec. 28. There shall never be in this state either slavery or involuntary
servitude, EXCEPT AS A PUNISHMENT FOR CRIME, WHEREOF THE
PARTY SHALL HAVE BEEN DULY CONVICTED.
NO PROVISO

(1972)

THE STATES

219

CONSTITUTION OF NEW HAMPSHIRE
NO PROVISO

Bill of Rights, Article 18 (1792)
[Art.] 18th. [Penalties to be Proportioned to Offenses; True Design of
Punishment.] All penalties ought to be proportioned to the nature of
the offense. No wise legislature will affix the same punishment to the
crimes of theft, forgery, and the like, which they do to those of murder
and treason. Where the same undistinguishing severity is exerted
against all offenses, the people are led to forget the real distinction in
the crimes themselves, and to commit the most flagrant with as little
compunction as they do the lightest offenses. For the same reason a
multitude of sanguinary laws is both impolitic and unjust. The true design of all punishments being to reform, not to exterminate mankind.
[Emphasis added.]

CONSTITUTION OF NEW JERSEY
NO PROVISO
Slavery existed prior to the adoption of the constitution of
1844, and was not abolished by that constitution, but was
abolished by Act April 18, 1846, Rev. St. 1847, p. 382. State v.
Post, 21 N.J.L. 699 (1848); State v. Post, 20 N.J.L. 368 (1844.)9

CONSTITUTION OF NEW MEXICO
NO PROVISO

CONSTITUTION OF NEW YORK
NO PROVISO
(See PENNSYLVANIA)

CONSTITUTION OF OKLAHOMA
NO PROVISO

CONSTITUTION OF PENNSYLVANIA
NO PROVISO

,

I

1

220 APPENDIX

Historical Note
The book Free Men All, by Thomas D. Morris, "follows the
developments in five free states (Massachusetts, New York,
Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Wisconsin) in which 'Personal Liberty Laws' were passed. These laws variously guaranteed a jury
trial to a person who claimed to be free; extended habeas corpus to cover the claims to freedom of fugitives; required state
procedures in addition to, or as an alternative to, the federal
fugitive rendition procedures; punished state officials for performing duties under the federal fugitive slave acts, or withdrew jurisdiction from state officials in such cases; denied
the use of jails to house alleged runaways; provided counsel
for blacks or persons claimed as slaves; and provided punishment for persons convicted of kidnapping. Not all were in effect in any one state, and some were later repealed by prosouthern state legislatures. The most bold and threatening
(the first three listed above) were ruled unconstitutional or
void in Prigg [Prigg v. Pennsylvania, 41 US. (16 Pet.) 539
(1842)l and Ableman v. Booth [62 U S . (21 How.) 506 (1859)J as
conflicting with valid federal law."1o

CONSTITUTION OF SOUTH CAROLINA
(Changed State)
Article I, Section 2 (1868)
Sec. 2. Slavery shall never exist in this State; neither shall involuntary
servitude, EXCEPT AS A PUNISHMENT FOR CRIME, WHEREOF THE
PARTY SHALL HAVE BEEN DULY CONVICTED.
NO PROVISO (1895)

CONSTITUTION OF SOUTH DAKOTA
NO PROVISO

CONSTITUTION OF TEXAS
(Changed State)
Article I, Section 19 (1869)
Sec. 22. Importations of persons under the name of "coolies," or any
other name or designation, or the adoption of any system of peonage,
whereby the helpless and unfortunate may be reduced to practical
bondage, shall never be authorized or tolerated by the laws of this
State; and neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, EXCEPT AS A
PUNISHMENT FOR CRIME, WHEREOF THE PARTY SHALL HAVE
BEEN DULY CONVICTED, shall ever exist in this State.
NO PROVISO (1876)

THESTATES

221

CONSTITUTION OF VIRGINIA
(Changed State)
Article I, Section 19 (1870)
Sec. 19. That neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, EXCEPT AS
LAWFUL IMPRISONMENT MAY CONSTITUTE SUCH, shall exist in
this State.
NO PROVISO (1902)

CONSTITUTION OF WASHINGTON
NO PROVISO

Article 6. Elections and Elective Rights
Sec. 3. Who Disqualified. All idiots, insane persons, and persons convicted of infamous crime unless restored to their civil rights are excluded from the elective franchise.

CONSTITUTION OF WEST VIRGINIA
NO PROVISO

CONSTITUTION OF WYOMING
NO PROVISO

222

APPENDIX

Notes
1. Hough, vol. 1, p. 82.
2. Tennessee Code Annotated, vol. 1, 1980 replacement ed. (Charlottesville:
Michie Company, 1980), pp. 399-400.
3. Hough, vol. 2, p. 493.
4. Michigan Compiled Laws Annotsted, vol. 1 (St. Paul: West Publishing Comany, 1967), p. 560.
5. Vermont Statutes Annotated, Title I through Title 3, 1972 replacement ed.
(Orford, N.H.: Equity Publishing Corporation, 1972), p. 98.
6. Florida Statutes Annotated, (St. Paul: West Publishing Co., 1970), vol. 25, p.
98.
7. Ibid., vol. 24, p. 234.
9. New Jersey Statutes Annotated, Constitution of New Jersey, Articles 1-111
(St. Paul: West Publishing Co., 1970), p. 127.
10. Wyeth Holt, pp. 1066-1067; see also Thomas Morris, Free Men All, The Personal Liberty Laws of the North, 1780-1861(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974), pp. 195-199, which Holt cites as "a good summary of the
types of Personal Liberty Laws, and what became of them."

Civil Death Statutes
Prison slavery state constitutional changes would be meaningless
without subsequent changes in state statutes. This technical conformity focuses on the changes in state civil death statutes.
Three prison slave and 6 no provi'so states have civil death. Three
changed states had civil death statutes - now they have one. Involuntary servitude states had 3 - now they have none.

CIVIL DEATH STATES

Further research in state statute and policy changes will empower
critical analysis of the practices of prison slavery and involuntary servitude. Correlation and cross-correlation of several factors will establish state signatures and both positive and negative effects of state
constitutional changes. Factors needing research and correlation include: civil death, death penalty, prison sentences, time served before
release, prison construction, unconstitutional prison conditions, the
existence of labor union-busting "right to work laws," passage or failure of the Equal Rights Amendment, abortion rights legislation, affirmative action, the distribution of nuclear power plants, and unemployment, poverty, and incarceration rates.

224

APPENDIX

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT
HOUSE O F DELEGATES
No. 1087
By: Delegate Phillips
Introduced and read first time: February 4! 1980
Assigned to: Constitutional and Administrative Law
A BILL ENTITLED
AN ACT concerning
Declaration of Rights - Abolition of Slavery
FOR the purpose of amending the Declaration of Rights of the Constitution of
Maryland to prohibit the practice of slavery; and submitting this amendment
to the qualified voters of the State of Maryland for their adoption or rejection.
BY proposing an addition to the Constitution of Maryland
Declaration of Rights
Article 47
SECTION 1. BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF MARYLAND,
(Three-fifths of all the members elected to each of the two Houses concurring),
That it be proposed that section(s) of the Constitution of Maryland be repealed, amended, or added to read as follows:
Declaration of Rights
Article 47.
THE PRACTICE OF SLAVERY IS ABOLISHED AND SHALL BE PROHIBITED
ABSOLUTELY.
SECTION 2. AND BE IT FURTHER ENACTED, That the General Assembly
determines that the amendment to the Constitution of Maryland proposed by
this Act affects multiple jurisdictions and that the provisions of Article XIV,
Section 1 of the Constitution concerning local approval of constitutional
amendments do not apply.
SECTION 3. AND BE IT FURTHER ENACTED, That the aforegoing section
proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of Maryland shall be submitted to the legal and qualified voters of this State at the next general election to
be held in November, 1980 for their adoption or rejection in pursuance of directions contained in Article XIV of the Constitution of this State. At that general
election, the vote on this proposed amendment to the Constitution shall be by
ballot, and upon each ballot there shall be printed the words "For the Constitutional Amendments" and "Against the Constitutional Amendments," as now
provided by law. Immediately after the election, all returns shall be made to
the Governor of the vote for and against the proposed amendment, as directed
by Article XIV of the Constitution, and further proceedings had in accordance
with Article XIV.
EXPLANATION: CAPITALS INDICATE MATTER ADDED TO EXISTING LAW.
[Brackets] indicate matter deleted from existing law.

PROPOSED MARYLAND LEGISLATION 225

HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION No. 70
By: Delegates Phillips, Murphy, Dean, Rawlings, and Conaway
Introduced and read first time: February 13, 1981
Assigned to: Constitutional and Administrative Law
HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION
A House Joint Resolution concerning
Slavery or Involuntary Servitude
FOR the purpose of urging the amendment of the United States Constitution
to remove any trace of the acceptability of slavery or involuntary servitude.
WHEREAS, With the states' ratification of Amendment Xlll of the United
States Constitution in 1865, the legality of slavery and involuntary servitude
was restricted to "punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been
duly convicted"; and
WHEREAS, With the United States Senate's ratification of the Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions
and Practices Similar to Slavery in 1967, we recognized the illegality of the
"status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching
to the right of ownership are exercised"; and
WHEREAS, We have become increasingly aware that by accepting as just
any form of slavery or involuntary servitude we reduce a human being's personhood and are responsible for the abominable consequences that flow
therefrom; and
WHEREAS, In spite of this growing awareness, United States Courts have
been bound by Amendment Xlll of the Constitution to accept the proposition
that "the labor of a convict belongs to the state"; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF MARYLAND, That the United
States Constitution should be amended to remove any trace of the acceptability
of slavery or involuntary servitude; and be it further
RESOLVED, That a copy of this Resolution be sent to the Maryland Congressional Delegation: Senators Charles Mc C. Mathias, Jr. and Paul S. Sabanes,
Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510; and Representatives Royden
P. Dyson, Clarence D. Long, Barbara A. Mikulski, Marjorie S. Holt, Gladys N.
Spellman, Beverly B. Byron, Parren J. Mitchell, and Michael D. Barnes, House
Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515.

Petition to Abolish Prison Slavery
Committee to Abolish Prison Slavery
P.O. Box 3207, Washington, D.C. 20010 (202) 797-7721
I sign this petition in support of changing the status of prisoners
from that of slaves to that of full citizens and in recognition that the
Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution presently
reads:

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.
and should be changed to read:
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall exist
within the United States or any place subject to their
jurisdiction.
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