Man Accuses Prison of Violating His 13th Amendment Rights (You Know, The One That Banned Slavery)

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Gary S. Chapman

It’s been 147 years since slavery was abolished in the United States, but one man believes a Vermont prison treated him as if he were back in the 1800s. Finbar McGarry has filed a lawsuit against the state’s prison system and a number of prison officials, alleging they violated his 13th Amendment rights — under which all Americans are guaranteed freedom from “slavery or involuntary servitude.”

McGarry, in the $11 million lawsuit, claims he was forced to work for hardly any pay under unsafe conditions at a Vermont jail. According to CBS, he was arrested for a domestic disturbance in December 2008. He spent six weeks in prison before the charges were ultimately dropped, but while serving time, the Ph.D student at the University of Vermont alleges he was forced into 14-hour shifts in the prison laundry, paid a paltry 25 cents an hour to work in unpleasant, unsanitary conditions, which resulted in him getting an infection in his neck. If he refused to work, he was threatened with solitary confinement.

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Although a lower court initially dismissed McGarry’s lawsuit, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found Friday that McGarry should be allowed to bring forth his case. Speaking to WBZ radio, David Frank of Lawyer’s Weekly said: “You do have to give the plaintiff in this case a lot of credit. He’s come up with a very creative argument.” He explained that the fundamental issue wasn’t one of slavery, but innocence. “Unless a judge or jury finds you guilty, that presumption of innocence gives you some protection,” he added. “It’s significant difference that the law recognizes.”

Frank warned that there is “no doubt” that should McGarry’s lawsuit prevail, “it would be a very significant message for jails and houses of correction that hold people pre-trial. “The message would be: you can’t force people to work while they’re awaiting trial, whether you’re going to pay them 25 cents an hour or $25,000 an hour.”

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5 comments
Miles to Code
Miles to Code

He probably does have a very strong case. However, every two bit con is going to try this argument if he wins.

hileewood
hileewood

The Thirteenth Amendment maintains that prisoners become slaves after being DULY CONVICTED, not before conviction.

 "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." 

The Thirteenth Amendment needs to be changed so as to completely abolish all slavery.  Here's one proposed change:

"Neither

slavery nor involuntary servitude, NOT EVEN AS A PUNISHMENT FOR CRIME, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to  their Jurisdiction."   

It's really very simple, all slavery must be abolished.

                                                                                   

                                                                                     

Skipdallas
Skipdallas

I believe he has a case! After all, he was not convicted of any crime. And forcing pre-trial detainees to work for the city/county/state is indeed involuntary servitude. While it may serve the public good to detain a person before trial, forcing him/her to work with or without pay is just wrong.

I find the headline a bit sensational however. This man was not in "Prison" he was in a local jail. There is a huge difference in the two institutions and the way they are run. Sounds like the city/county was being cheap and stretching its budget by forcing the inmates to work. And the threat of solitary confinement for failing to work is illegal. You can only use solitary if an inmate is a danger to himself or others, or as a punishment for improper behavior. And even then, there are limits to how long the inmates can be isolated. And refusing to work pre-conviction is not improper behavior.

Luke Harvey
Luke Harvey

What, they go into prison and get paid, I suppose what with all this unemployment no wonder their is such as high crime rate ! 

John Smith
John Smith

No, that's China that has the prison labor slaves. Not us, we're the good ones.