Rattling the Bars: How the 13th Amendment Perpetuates Prison Slavery
The National Million Prison Family march will take place on August 19 to demand the repeal of the 13th amendment, which legalizes prison slavery, explains Max Parthas, host of New Abolitionist Radio
EDDIE CONWAY: I’m Eddie Conway coming to you from Baltimore.
Welcome to this edition of, “Rattling the Bars”. In the past four weeks, I’ve talked to four organized leaders about a planned rally in Washington D.C. for prisoners’ rights, and to abolish the 13th Amendment, at least that part of it that says that slavery is okay.
So, I have here with me today, Max Parthas, who is a prison abolitionist, radio host, that’s going to spread some light on this 13th Amendment; what it means, and how they intend to try to get it removed. Max, welcome.
MAX PARTHAS: Hey Eddie, how ya doing?
EDDIE CONWAY: I’m good. Can you tell me, and the audience a little bit about the 13th Amendment, and why that’s one of the main issues in this planned August 19th National Million Prison Family march?
MAX PARTHAS: Yes. Once again, I’m Max Parthas, host of New Abolitionist Radio, on the Black Talk Radio Network. We specifically talk about the 13th Amendment, and the affects that it has had on the United States’ citizens for the last 150 plus years. The exception clause, which was put into the 13th Amendment, which basically says, except for prisoners duly-convicted, allows the United States to practice legalized slavery and human trafficking even to this day.
So, what we feel that by taking that language out of the 13th Amendment, we can stop legalized slavery in the United States. And we’re also asking for Congressional hearings on the 13th Amendment itself, and the effects that it has had on our society for this last century and a half.
EDDIE CONWAY: Okay, but now, what are you saying that the 13th Amendment, what kind, I mean… Okay I recognize… I spent 44 years in prison, so that needs to be made clear. I recognize the slavery aspect of the 13th Amendment — that exception clause. But what are you saying about the rest of the 13th Amendment, in terms of its impact on the United States of America’s citizens?
MAX PARTHAS: Well, that particular section of it, which says, “except for prisoners duly convicted”. Vermont was the first one to use an exception clause, and start incorporating what they called then, ‘prison convict leasing.’
The same thing happened here in South Carolina. In South Carolina our penal system began in 1866; exactly one year after the 13th Amendment was passed. It used convict leasing, which was the new form of slavery, as you’re very familiar with in the film, “Slavery by Another Name,” documents very well. They used convict leasing here in South Carolina, all the way up to 1960.
So, that went on for quite some time, where they were able to literally take possession of a person’s body, store their body, and then lease them out to different private companies across the state for political purposes, or political prizes. Or just to make some money.
Today’s climate though, uses it far more advantageously, and it’s more of a global institution now. With the introduction of private prisons back in the ’80s, I believe Reagan was the one that brought the first private prisons back into existence, with a women’s prison in Louisiana.
Since that has occurred, we have seen our prison numbers explode, and primarily, because now with the people being property of the state, they don’t even have to lease you out, using you like convict leasing, any more. Most of their money is made simply by possession of your body. Your story is heroic, and epic. I listened… I watched all ten segments of your story itself, and I have to really give you a salute brother, because you have done some amazing things, and are aware of some incredible things.
But, I remember in your interview, you were talking about the moment when your life changed, and when your ideals changed, when you saw what was going on in Newark, with the tanks sitting there and this man sitting atop a tank, aiming at black women and children.
Well, I grew up there. I was probably there at the time as a child, for all I know. So, with this 13th Amendment, the way it’s used right now, having 2.4 million prisoners, static number, in prisons; 13 million going through jails; 8 million on probation and parole, and that’s not counting juvenile detention facilities, and also immigration centers.
The storage of these bodies generates billions upon billions of dollars. The United States alone pays $182 billion a year, just for our prison system.
EDDIE CONWAY: Is that money taken from the taxpayers in the United States of America? I mean, where’s that money coming from?
MAX PARTHAS: The $182 billion that I just mentioned comes directly from the taxpayers. But it is not the end of where all of the income comes in. They also exploit the prisoners, as you know, through the commissary; also, through the new video conferencing, or phone calls; through J-pay.
There are a million different industries that all exist primarily off of the number of prisoners that are kept in prisons, and this includes everything from healthcare, to food providers.
EDDIE CONWAY: Uh huh. Well, tell me on the August 19th, I understand there will be a demand to remove this exception clause. How do you see that happening? It’s my understanding that when you try to tackle an Amendment to the Constitution, it takes like two-thirds of the states; perhaps as many as 35 states or something, to make that happen. Is a repeal possible with all those red states, and Trump in place?
MAX PARTHAS: Not only is it possible, it’s inevitable. You know I called the NAACP a couple of months ago, and I asked them if they would be a support of the Millions of Prisoners’ Human Rights march on Washington, and amending the 13th Amendment. And they told me at that time, that the climate was too hostile for them to even consider opening up the Constitution for re-interpretation.
But what they’re not familiar with, and many people are not aware of, is that there is already a convention of states in progress, happening through with Article 5 Convention, where they’re trying to change or add Amendments right now, to the constitution.
Just last week, Arizona was the 10th state to sign on, actually the 9th. Also, North Dakota was the 10th state to sign on. They only need 34 states, and they’re already a third of the way through — who has actually signed on to this Convention of States, that is going on right now. Ah…
EDDIE CONWAY: I’m sorry, Max. Wait, wait, that’s scary. What are they trying to change in the constitution? I mean, what’s their purpose. What’s their end goal here?
MAX PARTHAS: Well, according to them, it’s all about government spending. They want to reign in government spending, so they’re proposing amendments. But the scary part, and you should be scared, is because this is backed ALEC. The American–
EDDIE CONWAY: ALEC okay.
MAX PARTHAS: Yes, it’s backed by ALEC, and it’s also backed by private international corporations, and the Tea Party is leading the movement. Now, all of those components together are huge red flags. Their aim is to open up a convention of states, which is virtually the same as a Constitutional Convention, where they can add amendments or alter amendments within the constitution.
Now, once they get into position where they can do this and it’s going to happen; they’re well on their way, as I said. Once they get into position to do this, they can have what they call a runaway convention, where anything can happen. So, it’s no longer a matter of whether we can or not, now it’s a matter of whether or not we’re going to be included in this conversation, because it’s going to happen.
EDDIE CONWAY: How long has this been going on? I mean this is news to me. But, you know, what’s the lifespan of this so far?
MAX PARTHAS: Well, they’ve been talking about this since the 1980s.
EDDIE CONWAY: Uh huh.
MAX PARTHAS: But it really has started picking up steam within the past five years or so, and particularly, prior to the Trump election and afterwards, it really started picking up steam, because you’ve got these alt-rights who have now taken control of our government, as well as many of our other industries.
So, they’re really pushing it hard, and it’s been going on, as I said, where they’ve got 10 states already signed on. They’ve got 28 states that have committed to signing on. So, they’re basically only six states away from a convention of states.
EDDIE CONWAY: Uh huh. Can you… I’m going to ask you to come back and to join me again just to look at that particular thing. Can you in your research, kind of identify the states that have signed on; identify the states that have pledged, those other 28, to sign on? And so, we might be able to look at a map, and have some further discussion on ALEC, and the Tea Party, and other actors that are involved in this?
And then, if it’s possible, as you say, we need to be in the position to have a seat at the table, so that we can have some say so. And if possible, you can tell me how you envision that might happen, with the alt-right, extreme right, etc. How do we get at the table also? I mean in the future, I’m asking you to look at this, to do some research and what not, and then let’s get back together, and give that a look. Okay?
MAX PARTHAS: Yes sir. I have been looking at it in detail. I’ve already sent you a couple of things via email that you can look at. It’s only a couple of minutes long, whenever you feel like it.
EDDIE CONWAY: Okay. I will do that and get back to you. Now, but what do you see happening, like I say, on the 19th of August, in terms of pushing this — say 10, 15, 20, 100 thousand people come together — what’s the next step after that?
MAX PARTHAS: Well, I’m hoping that millions will come out, that’s really what I’m hoping, but I’m also familiar with marketing, and I know that you can’t get millions out if you don’t reach millions.
EDDIE CONWAY: Uh huh.
MAX PARTHAS: You know if you’re only reaching 100,000 then don’t expect a million to show up. But let’s say 100,000 show up to the Human Rights March on Washington. Our main goal, as I said, is to present our case and the evidence we have compiled on slavery and human trafficking, which is legal in the United States and allowed through the 13th Amendment exception clause, and being exploited, not only by private prisons but also by state entities, and Federal entities as well.
So, we want to be able to have an opportunity to provide that evidence right there publicly, on what we have compiled. Others may want to say a few things about their own personal experiences, like your story would be something people might want to be able to tell, those who have lived through a similar incidence.
So, we want to be able to present our case there, and to demand Congressional hearings on this 13th Amendment, and the effects it has had on our society for the last 150 years. Once Congressional hearings come underway, we feel that disclosure will prove every point we’ve ever wanted to prove. It’d be like turning your lights on in a cockroach-filled room, and the bugs will be flying all over the place. What they’re doing is illegal. It’s immoral. It’s unethical. Across the globe it’s condemned.
We even have had other nations, like Venezuela and China and others, who have condemned what the United States is doing to their prison population and with their prison population right now. We know that most of the people who are in prison today are in there for non-violent, or drug related crimes. They’re really exploiting the poor, the marginalized, and it is also that, of course, racist undertone that’s going on at all times, where people don’t even get trials any more.
We really are in the middle of a Constitutional crisis right now. The 6th Amendment is completely obliterated, 95% of all cases go to a plea bargain. So, if you’re only having 5% of the applicable people available to get a trial — that means that the 6th Amendment does not exist. The same thing applies to the 4th Amendment, with search and seizure. We know that the stop and frisk program, for instance, and the broken windows programs, and all of these different programs that are happening across the country are violations of the 4th Amendment.
The same thing applies to the 8th Amendment. So, we’re seeing a Constitutional crisis in the United States right now, where our government, and our state entities, are knowingly violating our rights every single day.
EDDIE CONWAY: Okay. All right, so do you have any final statement that you would like to make?
MAX PARTHAS: Yes. I don’t want people to underestimate the importance of what we’re trying to accomplish here. Just as the prisoners who, as Chrystal Rowntree explained, came up with this idea — this is the one opportunity that we’ve never seen before; it’s our opportunity to use the Constitution itself in order to gain the freedom for the people who deserve it.
You know, we want to see at least a million, if not a million and a half, people free, who should not be in prison or jails to begin with. That’s one of our primary goals as abolitionists. So, this is our opportunity to be able to get that freedom for those people right here, right now.
And if we can come together on anything, if we can agree on anything, then this is the thing that we should be able to come together and agree on. So, if you’re out there and you’re listening, please attend the Millions for Prisoners March on Washington, D.C., August 19th, and show your support for it.
EDDIE CONWAY: Okay, thank you.
MAX PARTHAS: Thank you Eddie. Have a blessed day my brother.
EDDIE CONWAY: Okay. And thank you for joining the Real News.