“Except as Punishment for a Crime”: State Constitutions, Slavery, and How our Founding Documents Encourage Oppression


Jesse Bach, PhD | September 20 | 2:45-3:45 PM

Topic: Legal, Research | Knowledge Level: Intermediate, Advanced | Location: TBD

Anti-trafficking advocates routinely petition elected officials to pass and/or amend laws to limit or eliminate various forms of human trafficking. These efforts have had impact within the human rights movement and have gained increasing traction amongst the general population. One segment of human rights abuses prevails however; state sanctioned slavery within the prison system. Many advocates are unaware that the federal constitution and most state constitutions allow for slavery as punishment for a crime. This session uses a mixed methods approach to examine our founding documents and how they allow and encourage state sanctioned slavery. Case studies regarding prisoners used as forced labor will also be presented.  The goal of this presentation is to add information to the human rights movement and to gain momentum to amend state constitutions so as to remove the “except” clause and other oppressive language.

Presentation Objectives:

·  Identify how founding documents allow for state sanctioned slavery

·  Explain how state constitutions can be amended to remove oppressive language

·  Discuss how prisoners cannot "opt out" of forced labor situations

About the Presenter