The Costs of the Punishment Clause

The Punishment Clause in the Thirteenth Amendment, permits involuntary servitude so long as it is imposed pursuant to a criminal punishment. Originating as Black codes and convict leasing, these practices have since morphed into exponentially expanding fines and fees imposed at arrest and conviction, that courts require defendants to pay off or punish with incarceration when they do not or cannot work to meet these financial obligations. This article explores the history of the clause and its connection to the imposition of financial obligations in criminal court. The authors also propose solutions that would eliminate the state’s use of prison labor under the guise of paying off criminal debt.

You can read the full article here.


  • Eliminate the Punishment Clause. 
  • End involuntary servitude as a punishment for a crime. 
  • Pay prison laborers a fair market wage.
  • Eliminate revenue generating financial penalties.
Cortney E. Lollar
Minnesota Law Review