The latest Global Slavery Index released by the NGO Walk Free has placed the United States among the group of countries with the greatest number of people living in modern slavery. The U.S. is also only 1 of only 17 countries with state-imposed forced labor – one of the “most egregious” forms of modern slavery, according to Walk Free.
The report notes that, “It is among the most egregious forms of modern slavery as it involves states not only failing in their duty to safeguard human rights, but actively using their power to perpetrate abuse.”
The Hill reports,
The U.S. is 1 of only 17 countries in the world that uses state-imposed forced labor, a form of “modern slavery,” according to a new report from an international human rights group.
Walk Free’s Global Slavery Index 2023 placed the U.S. among the small group of nations — which also includes China, North Korea and Russia — over its use of compulsory prison labor.
The report noted the 13th Amendment includes a caveat that allows involuntary servitude to be used as punishment for a crime.
Anti-slavery stance undermined
The 13th Amendment states, “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.” These 14 words have provided for a legal form of slavery in the U.S. since the Thirteenth Amendment’s ratification in 1865.
The report is clear that, while the U.S. has the fifth highest government response score on tackling modern slavery globally, it is overall undermined by its state imposed forced labor laws. It also notes that the US has largest rate of imprisonment, therefore that the risk of state imposed forced labor is very concerning.
The U.S. does take a strong stance against state imposed forced labor – elsewhere. In 2022, the country passed model legislation banning the import of goods tied to the Uyghur Region of China that other countries are being urged to emulate.
Join the movement
“The height of hypocrisy,” say American anti-slavery activists.
This year, advocates in several states are gearing up to make change happen to outlaw slavery explicitly once and for all. We’re right there with them support state level action while moving towards a federal change to the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Together with partners like Walk Free, our community is demanding all states and the federal government to explicitly outlaw slavery and involuntary servitude as punishment for a crime in the U.S. and state constitutions.