CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Monday, February 14, 2011

Taslitz on Criminal Justice and the Thirteenth Amendment

Taslitz andrew Andrew E. Taslitz (Howard University - School of Law) has posted The Slave Power Undead: Criminal Justice Successes and Failures of the Thirteenth Amendment (THE PROMISES OF LIBERTY: THE HISTORY AND CONTEMPORARY RELEVANCE OF THE THIRTEENTH AMENDMENT, Chapter 13, p. 245, Alexander Tsesis, ed., Columbia University Press, 2010) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Criminal justice legislation expressly rooted in, or inspired by, the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution has tended to be narrow in scope. Such legislation aims primarily at preventing the unwilling from being physically compelled to labor for little, if any, compensation at hard jobs. This book chapter argues that Section 2 of that amendment, empowering Congress to pass appropriate legislation to enforce the amendment, authorizes somewhat broader legislation. Section 2 must be understood as aiming not only at slavery and its close cousin, involuntary servitude, but more directly at the anti-republican culture it spawned. More specifically, this chapter identifies four hallmarks of a core concept of chattel slavery, the presence of any one of which was an important prop for the Slave Power and thus potentially an appropriate subject of legislative assault. These props give more meat to the ambiguous "badges and incidents" concept that has defined Congress's Section 2 power. The four props are: (1) violence that (2) is expressive of racial subordination (3) used to coerce labor or (4) treat humans more as commodities than as persons. Current doctrine requires the conjunction of props 1 and 3, while the chapter argues that prop 4 alone can be the subject of legislation, as can prop 1 in conjunction with either prop 2 or 3. Moreover, properly understood, props 2 and 3 significantly broaden the currently accepted scope of Section 2's reach. The chapter ends with illustrations of criminal justice legislation that could be authorized under this new reading of Section 2, including outlawing racially-motivated low-level violence interfering with the housing market and outlawing certain types of purely psychological manipulation, devoid of even the threat of physical violence, to compel labor.

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Lovely to see someone beginning to explore this area. Perhaps the "slavery power" will be exposed as a non-permit-able act? We have too many slaves now - though we do refer to them as prisoners. All 4 props are satisfied by their conditions and this should be the end of it. However, it isn't. "Slaves of the State" remain the only legal slaves in the USA. What a shame.

Posted by: Tim Rudisill | Feb 18, 2011 9:32:30 AM

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