Jun 23, 2017
From Prison Focus Issue 52
The Thirteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution reads as follows: "Section 1. Slavery prohibited. 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.”
Salamu! Greetings of solidarity from behind enemy lines. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to publish this communication. I am a new Afrikan freedom fighter from the ranks of JLS (Jailhouse Lawyers Speak), a collective of jailhouse lawyers organized to fight for prisoners' human rights against a system that is designed to dehumanize its captives. I am also the National Secretary for Amend the 13th, an inclusive coalition-based national campaign and community-based organizing effort to address the legal and social basis for dehumanization in Amerika.
The purpose of this press release is to notify prisoners, community organizers, and all those who care of the upcoming Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March scheduled for August 19, 2017 in Washington D.C.. This is a nationwide effort to bring global attention to the 13th Amendment's exception clause, its ramifications, and to solidify organizing efforts to amend it.
MILLIONS FOR PRISONERS HUMAN RIGHTS CORE DEMANDS OF ACTION:
1. We DEMAND the 13th amendment EXCEPTION CLAUSE of the United States Constitution be amended to abolish LEGALIZED slavery in America.
2. We DEMAND a Congressional hearing on the 13th Amendment EXCEPTION CLAUSE being recognized in violation of international law, the general principles of human rights, and its direct links to:
a). Private entities exploiting prison labor
b). Companies overcharging prisoners for goods and services
c). Private entities contracted by states/federal government to build and operate prisons. This would also include immigration detentions
d). Racial disparities in America’s prison population and sentencing
e). Policing: the disproportionate (unaccountable) killings by police in the black and brown communities
f). Felony Disenfranchisement laws
g). Immigration and Customs Enforcement 34,000 detention quotas
h). Producing the world largest prison population
In essence this is an abolitionist movement focused on ending legalized enslavement - a practice that is not only limited to prisoner-labor, but includes the profitability of a prisoners' own body in an isolation cell.
According to the U.S. Supreme Court in its long standing precedent in Ruffin v. Commonwealth, 62, Va (21 Gratt.) 790, 796 (1871): “A convicted felon, whom the law in its humanity punishes by confinement in penitentiary(s) instead of death, is subject while undergoing punishment, to all the laws which the legislature in its wisdom may enact for the government of that institution and control of its inmates. For the time being, during his term of service in the penitentiary, he is in a state of penal servitude to the state. He has, as a consequence of his crime, not only forfeited his liberty, but all of his personal rights except those which the law in its humanity accords him. He is for the time being a slave of the State. … They are slaves of the State undergoing punishment for heinous crimes committed against the laws of the land. …”
In other words, prisoners themselves become a commodity. Which explains why the entire apparatus of law enforcement is geared towards capturing and caging humans for the highest bidder. It should not be of any surprise that black and brown communities are prime targets for extractions. We cannot overemphasize the connection between slavery and the Prison-Industrial Enslavement Complex. Prison slavery is a direct outgrowth of the 13th Amendment and the exception clause is a direct outgrowth of the pre-1865 chattel enslavement system. You can analyze the different periods and the transitions from convict leasing, black codes, and Jim crow, through Nixon’s war on drugs, and Clinton’s 1994 crime bill to see the historical connections and the development of an INjustice system that has led to the criminalization of generations. All across Amerika people are becoming more aware of the 13th Amendment's exception clause. Prisoners around the nation have been strategizing and directly challenging the 13th, as demonstrated by the September 9, 2016 prison strikes. Jailhouse Lawyers Speak has been planning its challenge to the thirteenth in collaboration with iamWE Prison Advocacy Network since mid 2015. This challenge is the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March, hosted by iamWE Prison Advocacy Network. Presently coalitions are being formed that we envision will become a recognizable force for change beyond the March. Likewise, we envision every August 19th afterwards being a day of solidarity and demonstrations in recognition of human rights for the incarcerated, and highlighting the violations of such for collective action.
“Black August is a month of divine meaning, of repression and radical resistance, of injustice and divine justice; of repression and righteous rebellion; of individual and collective efforts to free the slaves and break the chains that bind us.” -Mumia Abu-Jamal
Black August was selected by JLS prisoners, due to its significance as a historical month of commemoration of fallen new Afrikan freedom fighters. This is a month in which the spirit of liberation is encouraged amongst prisoners and within our communities. Black August is a special month to many of us confined. Comrade George L. Jackson is a light to many of us struggling to maintain our sanity and dignity within these concentration camps. It is only fitting that this event be scheduled during this month, in hopes of connecting more people to the prison resistance movement, its history, its future challenges and needs. As I write this today, confirmation is coming in that prisoners around the country are in collective discussions to stand solidarity with the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March.
For those prisoners that would like to participate, it is asked that you:
Fast from sun rise to sun set
Participate in intense political studies with emphasis on the 13th amendment.
Perform daily prayer or meditation
Perform daily exercise regimen
Refrain from purchasing any and all prison products to that require spending of money during this month
Refrain from smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages
If possible, wear a black arm band or wrist band (i.e.shoelace) around left wrist.
Around the Nation and across the world, August 19, 2017 will be remembered as a day of collective action, with the national objective of abolishing legalized enslavement in Amerika. People from all walks of life on both sides of the prison walls have answered the call. Many are organizing their communities to travel to the march in D.C., while others will be hosting local solidarity demonstrations in their state or country, and still others are distributing info and sharing resources and time