רָשָׁע מַה הוּא אוֹמֵר? מָה הָעֲבֹדָה הַזֹּאת לָכֶם? לָכֶם ולֹא לוֹ. וּלְפִי שֶׁהוֹצִיא אֶת־עַצְמוֹ מִן הַכְּלָל, כָּפַר בָּעִקָּר. וְאַף אַתָּה הַקְהֵה אֶת־שִׁנָּיו, וֶאֱמָר־לוֹ: בַּעֲבוּר זֶה, עָשָׂה יְיָ לִי, בְּצֵאתִי מִמִּצְרָֽיִם, לִי וְלֹא־לוֹ. אִלּוּ הָיָה שָׁם, לֹא הָיָה נִגְאָל

The wicked child, what does he say? What is the use of this ritual to you? To you and not to him! Because he has excluded himself from the community, he has transgressed a fundamental teaching of our faith. You  must set his teeth on edge. Say to him: Because of this God did for me, when I went forth from Egypt. For me and not for him. If he had been there, he would not have been redeemed.

Can Slavery be Used as Punishment?

    The Haggadah seems to indicate that slavery is suitable punishment for the wicked.  While crime must be punished, there are many reasons why even as punishment for severe crimes slavery may still be wrong.

Slavery may be such a fundamental affront to human dignity that it can never be justified.

There is no clear answer as to what crimes are severe enough to deserve punishment by slavery. Society may therefore be tempted to use slavery as punishment for many crimes for oppression or economic gain.

A slave has virtually no protection from physical and sexual abuse. Anyone enslaved will likely be subjected to unconscionable mistreatment.

What Happens When Slavery Is Used As Punishment

Exploitation for Hazardous Labor

The purpose of prison is supposed to deter crime, punish criminals, and protect the public. Since keeping people locked up in prison is expensive, government ordinarily wants to have to keep as few prisoners as possible. However, if the government is able to put the prisoners to work doing hard to fill jobs for minuscule wages, government may be tempted to deprive citizens of their liberty for the purpose of using their work. In 2017, California used 3800 state inmates to fight forest fires at the rate of $2/ day plus $1/ hour. . .

Inmate Labor for Private Industry

Some inmates clean, prepare food, and upkeep of the prison grounds. But others work on behalf of private sector employers in arrangements often called rent a convict or factories with fences. Is the government leasing out prisoners to private, for profit employers and retaining their pay different than what slave owners have always done?

Prisoners for Dangerous Jobs

In 2010, British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, spewing crude oil onto Louisiana’s beaches. Cleanup work required 12 hour days dressed in high density polyethylene coveralls taped to steel- toed boots. Even though many coastal residents had lost their incomes due to the contamination, few if any were willing to do this work. So BP brought in prisoners. . .

The Black Codes: Punishment for Oppression

After the civil war, Southern states worried that without slave labor their agriculture based economies would fall apart. They passed laws known as ‘black codes’ which criminalized black unemployment to put newly emancipated slaves in prison, then put those black prisoners to work at their prior jobs under former masters’ control. Whenever slaves are forced to perform needed work there is the possibility of using prisons for both economic gain or oppression.

Human Rights Haggadah Blog