How This Amendment Could End Prison Slavery

empty jail
Tremain Prioleau II
March 27, 2024

The 13th Amendment was supposed to abolish slavery in the United States. However, there is an exception that has allowed slavery to continue unchecked.

The 13th Amendment forbids slavery unless it’s a criminal punishment. This one line has led to the disaster that is mass incarceration in the United States today. However, there’s an Abolition Amendment that would end this exception and make prison slavery a thing of the past.

Formerly incarcerated people like Kenyatta know firsthand how much prison labor mirrors slavery. In a video by Worth Rises' #ENDTHEEXCEPTION campaign, Kenyatta says he had to work for 25 cents an hour. “If they had to pay for what my work was worth, they wouldn’t be able to do that.” The prison system exploits people like Kenyatta only for corporate greed and to save the government money.

On the End the Exception website, an AI-generated image of Abraham Lincoln, the president credited with having  “ended” slavery, gives a speech  on the 13th Amendment. Lincoln’s failure to keep this exception out of the 13th Amendment brings us to the system that exists today.

Slavery is alive in the criminal legal system. Abolishing prison slavery is the answer to ending the exploitation of incarcerated people and ending mass incarceration more broadly. You can learn more about fighting prison slavery at