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Exception to Slave Labor

Exception To Slave Labor

I would like to commend the staff of PLN (issue #8) because, in my opinion, it is the best issue yet. I was impressed with the listing of competent authorities for the facts and figures presented in the articles. One thing though that I would like to see further comment on was the two cases from the federal appellate court which were not complimentary to prisoners' rights. The one which I thought was particularly irritating was the one which held that prisoners could be forced to work without it being contrary to the involuntary servitude clause of the 13th amendment.

I believe there are still [parts in the U.S.] in which criminal judges make the stipulation of "labor" a part of the judgment and sentence. This was at one time a general practice and it was common to see convicted felons sentenced to "five years at hard labor," and similar sentencing practices. In Washington state a sentence, by law, is to be "confined" (loss of liberty) and nothing else. Therefore, I believe it might be possible to successfully attach any arbitrary policy or practice of forced labor [on the grounds that] it would be punishment above and beyond the actual sentence, a "cruel and unusual" event, and a violation of the proscription against involuntary servitude.

D.H. Shelton, WA

[PLN responds: At some point, when we are considerably stronger, we would like to include the prison labor issue along side our struggle for the right to vote and otherwise participate in the process of bourgeois democracy.]

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