Ala. Law Struck Down as Involuntary Servitude

1914

In United States v. Reynolds, the U.S. Supreme Court finds that an Alabama law violates the 13th Amendment. The law allows people to pay off the fines of someone convicted of a misdemeanor, thus freeing the convict from jail, on the condition that the convict work to pay off the debt. Finding that the law allows for “involuntary servitude,” the Court notes that the work required to pay the debt could be harsher than if the convict had been sentenced to imprisonment at hard labor in the first place. In later cases, the Court will declare similar laws in Georgia and Florida to be unconstitutional.