Change the Thirteenth Amendment Now

This may sound shocking but slavery is still technically legal in the United States of America. The Thirteenth Amendment states, “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, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Yes, slavery may seem like it is not present in this time but the Thirteenth Amendment says that slavery and involuntary servitude is practically still lawful. According to this punishment clause nothing in the Thirteenth Amendment says you could not become a slave to the state.

This is why an Amendment to the Constitution should be passed so the Thirteenth Amendment would remove the words “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.”

In a nation where there are seven million people on probation or behind bars something must be done about the way society views and acts towards offenders of the law.

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The Thirteenth Amendment states that slavery is basically okay if it is because of a crime. When people read this they should be shocked that in 2018 the Unites States of America would deem this acceptable to have this phrase still present in the Amendment s. This type of language suggests that in our nation it is perfectly fine to question the simple rights, equality, and dignity of many americans. By keeping the words “except as a punishment for crime” this suggests that these people who have committed a crime could be considered slaves.

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Slavery refers to individuals who are owned by others who control what they can and can not do. Slaves are people who are treated less than human. While it is true that offenders should not have some certain rights and privileges they still have rights specifically laid out in the Bill of Rights. For example, the first Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances”[1]. As a citizen of the United States there should be no question of a person’s true freedom. Even if one is convicted of a crime they are still viewed as a human, not an object.

There is a problem with our society if our government allows these words to remain in the Constitution. The main factor that drives this is the way society views prisoners. In one study of how prisoners are viewed, it states that “prison officers have even been described as cynical, authoritarian and pessimistic” [2]. This will not help to enforce a positive attitude because the whole point of being placed in prison is to “help the prisoners change their criminal behaviour and avoid reoffending after release.” [3].

This change to the Thirteenth Amendment should not merely be a law. A law can be written and it can easily be done away with. The Constitution, on the other hand, has a higher level of significance and two thirds of the state must approve of it. By taking this out of the Amendment it shows the magnitude of how humans should not be viewed as slaves even if they have offended the law.

By taking the words “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted” it will help to reshape our culture and the way society views lawbreakers. Prisoners get a very bad reputation for breaking the law for obvious reasons. Although the whole point of going to prison is for correction, not condemnation. If these words alluding towards slavery technically being legal, were to be taken out of the Amendment s it would surely help society, officers,prisoners, and the government to have a different perspective on the way that prisoners were treated and viewed. If every prison allowed prisoners to be able to hold a job while being in prison that would again help everyone. True work could be part of a restorative corrections policy.

Prisoners should be able to learn skills that will help to make them successful individuals after release. Jobs in prison also help individuals keep a sense of purpose during drawn out sentences. Society as a whole could also benefit from prisoners having jobs. Prisoners’ jobs could allows them to pay off restitution and the taxpayer would not have to pay as much as currently is paid. Although slavery, labor that dehumanizes someone for the profit of another person, does not have a place in prisons and definitely not in the Constitution.

However, I do not believe that this change to the Thirteenth Amendment would be passed. There must be two thirds of the states to agree on an Amendment. As one can see in history when the topic of slavery was at question it was divided in half. In the climate of the 1850’s the “South held a pro-slavery identity that supported the expansion of slavery into western territories, while the North largely held abolitionist sentiments and opposed the institution’s westward expansion.” Yes times have changed but some people strongly believe that once you have committed a crime you are no longer human, no longer deserving of basic human rights. Some citizens depending of where they live have grown up believe that slavery was not as bad as it is sometimes made out to be. Sometimes once someone’s mind is made up there is not much you can do to change it.

According to the Thirteenth Amendment a felon is pretty much put into the legal system as a slave. Because of this, slaves have almost no rights at all. This is seen in the treatment of people who reside in ghettos and underprivileged areas. Many of these citizens are felons, therefore, according to the law, they will forever be condemned to the title of a slave. This also has a huge impact on those people who may have even been accused of a wrongful felony. These are just a few ways how the phrasing and code language affects many.

The 13th Amendment is also in violating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations; Article 4. This Article states: ‘No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms’. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations; Article 5 states: ‘No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’. This yet again shows that the Thirteenth Amendment needs to be changed because it clearly goes against other constitutions. It does not succeed in fully abolishing slavery as a whole and violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. According to the Thirteenth Amendment slavery is supposed to be nonexistent in the united States. Yet we technically still have modern-day-slavery. All forms of slavery must be abolished, this cannot be fully seen through if the Thirteenth Amendment continues to permit slavery being legal under certain conditions.

The Thirteenth Amendment should eliminate the words “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted”. It leaves the question of, is slavery still legal in the United States? A person’s rights should never be put to question by a citizen living in 2018.


  1. Bill of Rights Institute. “Bill of Rights.” Bill of Rights Institute, 2018,
  2. Callahan L. Correctional officer attitudes toward inmates with mental disorders. International Journal of Forensic Mental Health. 2004;3:37–54.
  3. Glaser D. The effectiveness of a prison and parole system.Indianapolis, Bobbs-Merrill; 1969.
  4. Liske, Jim. “Yep, Slavery Is Still Legal: Column.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 15 Aug. 2014,

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Change the Thirteenth Amendment Now. (2021, Sep 02). Retrieved from

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