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Section 1. Amendment XIII. Ratified December 6, 1865
“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, nor any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Section 1. Amendment XIV. Ratified July 9,1868
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.


On 17 March 2017, a Roundtable on The 13th Amendment Punishment Clause and Mass Incarceration was held at the National Underground Railroad and Freedom Center in Cincinnati. It was convened by the Organization on Procedural Justice (OPJ), a commission of The Diocese of Southern Ohio Episcopal and Christ Church Cathedral.

The objective of the Roundtable was to bring together scholars–discussants from an array of disciplines and perspectives: history, academia, medicine, re-entry politics, religion, and law among them—for the purpose, not only of examining the features of the ‘punishment clause’ of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but to unearth and acknowledge its historic and toxic effects on certain families and communities of citizens, and then act. Thus, the primary mission goal of the Roundtable is to provoke a movement to expunge the “…except as punishment for crime…” clause from the language of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, an aftermath currently authorizing mass incarceration: Slavery past 1865.

To that end, the four (4) topics of the Roundtable combined in their contributions to the identification of requisite bodies of legal expertise and grassroots advocacy to achieve expungement mission goal. In short, the Roundtable 1) identified challenges to repeal of the 13th Amendment “…except as punishment for crime…” clause; and 2) simultaneously recommended solutions for ending the reign of terror also known as The Prison Industrial Complex, ‘school-to-prison pipeline’, mass incarceration, and prison slavery profiteering—all manifestations of 13th Amendment Constitutional language.

As example, the issue of ‘school-to-prison’ patterns and practices prompted one Scholar to exclaim in her Roundtable presentation: “…I had read about the school-to-prison pipeline, and then I showed up to that school and I saw it. I had never seen so many police officers at a school in my life.”
Question: Where the government legally authorizes schoolhouse-based law enforcement presence in schools—engendering daily threat of instant police arrests of children in settings where, under law, underage citizens have a right to be—are not such underage citizens entitled to immediate on-the-spot due process? To on-the-spot access to legal representation in face of arrests—Miranda law equal protections furnished by schoolhouse- based law offices? Otherwise, do children, underage citizens, shed their citizenship rights at the schoolhouse door? Can it be argued that schoolhouse arrests give clear pathways to prison slavery? But is it also true that cessation of existence of the 13th Amendment’s “…except as punishment for crime…” language, its residual forms and conditions undergoing univocal or unambiguous abolishment will, in irrevocability, remove Wall Street authority to lockup our youngest children? For profit. Who is entitled to the benefits of Unpaid Labor?

Merelyn B. Bates-Mims, PhD.; Fulbright Scholar Founding Chair, The Organization on Procedural Justice (OPJ) Roundtable Facilitator and Committee Chairperson

PHOTO CREDIT: Slavery by Another Name

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