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Convicted: How Corporations Exploit the Thirteenth Amendment’s Loophole for Profit

Corporate Accountability Lab (November 2022)

This crucial report published in November 2022 is one of two invaluable educational resources put out by Corporate Accountability Lab pertaining specifically to the exception clause. We strongly recommend both!

Titled"Convicted: How Corporations Exploit the Thirteenth Amendment’s Loophole for Profit," this eye-opening document sheds light on the dark side of the American justice system, where the loophole in the Thirteenth Amendment is systematically exploited by corporations to bolster their profits.

Corporate Accountability Lab Bars and dollar signs
Corporate Accountability Lab (November 2022)
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The Loophole in the Thirteenth Amendment

The Thirteenth Amendment, ratified in 1865, famously abolished slavery and involuntary servitude. However, it included a critical exception: "except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted." This exception has been used to justify the exploitation of incarcerated individuals, effectively permitting a form of modern-day slavery within our prisons.

The Mechanics of Exploitation

Corporations and private entities have capitalized on this loophole, partnering with prison systems to create a labor force that is both captive and cheap. Incarcerated individuals often work in abysmal conditions, receiving minimal or no pay. This arrangement benefits corporations by reducing labor costs and increasing profits, while prisons receive financial incentives for providing a steady supply of labor.

Case Studies of Corporate Exploitation

The report by Corporate Accountability Lab highlights several case studies demonstrating how corporations exploit prison labor:

  1. Agricultural Industries: Inmates are often used for agricultural work, picking crops and performing other labor-intensive tasks. The minimal wages paid do not reflect the hazardous conditions and grueling hours.

  2. Manufacturing and Production: Incarcerated workers are employed in manufacturing goods ranging from clothing to electronics. This practice not only undermines fair labor standards but also displaces jobs that could be available to the general public at fair wages.

  3. Service Industries: Some companies use prison labor for telemarketing, data entry, and other service-oriented jobs. These positions typically offer inmates far below the minimum wage, with little to no benefits or worker protections.

The Human Cost

While corporations reap significant financial benefits, the human cost of this exploitation is enormous. Incarcerated individuals, many of whom are disproportionately people of color, are subjected to harsh working conditions and exploitation without adequate compensation or protections. This perpetuates cycles of poverty and inequality, making it difficult for these individuals to reintegrate into society upon release.

Calls for Reform

The report concludes with a call to action for lawmakers, activists, and the public to address this grave injustice. Key recommendations include:

  • Amending the Thirteenth Amendment: Advocates argue for removing the exception clause to eliminate any form of slavery or involuntary servitude.

  • Implementing Fair Labor Standards: Ensuring that incarcerated individuals receive fair wages and worker protections equivalent to those enjoyed by the general public.

  • Corporate Accountability: Holding corporations accountable for their role in exploiting prison labor and pushing for greater transparency and ethical practices.


The exploitation of the Thirteenth Amendment’s loophole by corporations for profit is a stark reminder of the work still needed to achieve true justice and equality. Reports like "CONVICTED" by Corporate Accountability Lab play a crucial role in raising awareness and mobilizing action. As advocates for human rights and social justice, it is our collective responsibility to push for reforms that ensure dignity, fairness, and equality for all individuals, regardless of their incarceration status.

Source: Corporate Accountability Lab. (November 2022). CONVICTED: How Corporations Exploit the Thirteenth Amendment’s Loophole for Profit.


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