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SM 730: Punishment Clause

MEMORIAL by Powell

 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.

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