Criminal Exception

The 13th Amendment barred slavery “except as a punishment for crime.” While this provision was uncontroversial in a society in which forced labor was widely considered a valid punishment for some crimes, it became more controversial in later years—especially as many Southern states punished African Americans disproportionately under criminal law.

Dec 13, 1863
Ashley proposes abolition amendment in the House

Slavery or involuntary servitude, except in punishment of crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, is hereby forever prohibited in all the States of this Union, and in all Territories now owned, or which may hereafter be acquired by the United States.

Dec 13, 1863
Wilson proposes abolition amendment in the House

Slavery, being incompatible with a free government, is forever prohibited in the United States; and involuntary servitude shall be permitted only as a punishment for crime. Congress shall have power to enforce the foregoing section of this article by appropriate legislation.

Jan 10, 1864
Henderson proposes abolition amendment in the Senate

Slavery or involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, shall not exist in the United States.

Jan 30, 1865
The 13th Amendment

Section One: 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. Section Two: Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.