Florida Senate - 2024 SM 730

By Senator Powell

24-01441-24 2024730__
1 Senate Memorial
2 A memorial to the Congress of the United States,
3 urging Congress to propose to the states an amendment
4 to the Constitution of the United States to delete the
5 “Punishment Clause” from the Thirteenth Amendment to
6 the Constitution of the United States.
8 WHEREAS, section 1 of the Thirteenth Amendment to the
9 Constitution of the United States, which was ratified in 1865,
10 provides that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except
11 as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly
12 convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place
13 subject to their jurisdiction,” and
14 WHEREAS, this amendment left a loophole for those convicted
15 of crimes, known as the “Punishment Clause,” and as a result of
16 such loophole slavery was not outlawed in prisons, and
17 WHEREAS, during Reconstruction and accelerating after
18 Reconstruction ended, southern jurisdictions arrested Black
19 Americans in large numbers for minor crimes codified in new
20 “Black Codes,” such as loitering or vagrancy, allowing sheriffs
21 to exploit the Punishment Clause to lease out the imprisoned
22 individuals to work landowners’ fields, and
23 WHEREAS, by facilitating and incentivizing the conviction
24 of Black Americans for minor crimes, the loophole within the
25 Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States
26 drove the over-incarceration of Black Americans, and especially
27 Black men, and
28 WHEREAS, this pattern has continued unbroken through to the
29 present day, in which communities of color are
30 disproportionately incarcerated, and
31 WHEREAS, private prison corporations profit from forced
32 labor, as do companies that sell their goods, which are made by
33 forced labor from undercompensated individuals, to unsuspecting
34 consumers, and
35 WHEREAS, the United States bans imports of goods produced
36 with forced labor in other nations, and
37 WHEREAS, the use of forced labor in American prison systems
38 undermines our international human rights and gives our foreign
39 adversaries propaganda that they can use to challenge the
40 legitimacy of American leadership abroad and Americans’ trust in
41 their government at home, NOW, THEREFORE,
43 Be It Resolved by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
45 That the Congress of the United States is urged to propose
46 to the states an amendment for ratification which would delete
47 the Punishment Clause from the Thirteenth Amendment to the
48 Constitution of the United States, closing this loophole that
49 has been used for over a century and a half to perpetuate mass
50 incarceration and allow others to profit from the forced labor
51 of their fellow Americans.
52 BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Secretary of State dispatch
53 copies of this memorial to the President of the United States,
54 the President of the United States Senate, the Speaker of the
55 United States House of Representatives, and each member of the
56 Florida delegation to the United States Congress.