The United States is one of 17 countries in the world that use state-imposed forced labor, a form of ‘modern slavery’, according to a new report by an international human rights group. .
Walk Free’s 2023 Global Slavery Index placed the United States among the small group of nations – which also includes China, North Korea and Russia – for its use of forced prison labor.
The report notes that the 13th Amendment includes a caveat that allows involuntary servitude to be used as punishment for a crime.
“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime the party of which has been duly convicted, shall exist in the United States or any place subject to the jurisdiction thereof,” the amendment states.
As a result, American prisoners are excluded from many labor law protections “as compulsory prison labor is considered a legal penalty rather than an economic activity,” according to the report.
The United States has the 10th largest estimated number of people in modern slavery, at around 1.1 million, according to the report.
Worldwide, around 3.9 million people were forced into labor by state authorities in 2021. The largest share – 2.2 million – were engaged in compulsory prison labor, according to the report.
Another 1.1 million were conscripts who were forced to perform non-military work, and around 700,000 others were engaged in forced labor for economic development.
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