Sunday, October 30th, 2016
Most people don’t realise that when Abraham Lincoln pushed through the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, passed in 1865, there was one crucial exception to the end of slavery. There are still slaves in the United States of America and there will be slaves for a very long time.
The Thirteenth Amendment states that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude… shall exist within the United States.” But adds the exception that slavery remains legal “as a punishment for a crime.”
Even fewer people realise that September 9th was the forty-fifth anniversary of the infamous riots in Attica Prison where inmates called for the end to this slavery, for freedom of political expression and better living conditions. Those initial riots in 1971 at Attica Prison cost the lives of 29 prisoners and 10 hostages.
Yet, nearly half a century later, there are still modern slaves in the United States of America. And most Americans don’t see a problem with it.
In Australia we have the same situation (albeit without directly referring to slavery). But there is no other way to view the exploitation of human beings for profit. Whether the punishment is designed to incorporate slavery; whether it’s what we’re used to throughout our lives in this country; or, whether as long as the sun rises and the sun sets there is no sympathy and can be no sympathy for the plight of a criminal. Our society has long incorporated slavery in the penal system.