Surprise, Slavery Still Exists
One of the most popular conspiracy theories out there is that the government / deep state / George Soros are working to strip away all of our rights, lock us in detention camps, and sell us into slavery to corporations. It's a cute idea, but there's one thing these powerful ne'er-do-wells haven't considered: The Constitution of the United States will stop them.
Except that it won't, and it isn't. As most of us know, slavery was intended to be abolished via the 13th Amendment, which states that "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." In principle, the amendment makes slavery as dead as the Confederacy. In practice, however, it's as alive and kicking as the Confederacy.
It all hinges on this little clause: "except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted." So while the Constitution makes damn sure no "innocent" soul is taken into bondage, it's a whole different ethics game if you've been convicted of a crime and imprisoned. Then you become a cog in the prison-industrial complex -- a major income stream of for-profit prisons wherein prisoners are forced participate in work programs. Prisoners must either help operate the prison or "participate" in a convict-leasing program through which corporations such as Whole Foods and Victoria's Secret (among others) can borrow inmates to do jobs that most people would ordinarily demand to be paid for. Oh, and the inmates don't get a choice. If they're medically fit, they have to work under the threat of being placed into solitary, and you know that's only because guards aren't allowed to whip people anymore.
Carol M. HighsmithAnd you thought your cubicle sucked.
So why should we care about a bunch of criminals having to do tech support and stock shelves? Well, maybe it's because that the 13th Amendment loophole takes away decent blue-collar jobs from regular hardworking people. Or maybe it's because prison is supposed to be about repaying your debt to society, not to AT&T. Or maybe it's because, after they get out, we've made sure those ex-cons aren't allowed to get paying jobs for the same work they've been doing for free for years. Or maybe, just maybe, you don't want to live in a system that incentivizes mass and long-term incarceration to the point where state lawyers have been caught arguing against releasing prisoners because prisons would "lose an important labor pool." Take your pick. Or get a prisoner to do the picking for you. That's what they're there for, apparently.
Adam Wears is on Twitter and Facebook, and has a newsletter about depressing history that you should definitely subscribe to.
On the off chance you're contemplating law school, let us tell you, Constitutional Law is one heck of a class.
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For more, check out 6 Myths About The US Constitution Too Many People Believe and 4 Constitutional Debates America's Founders Never Saw Coming.
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