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Former VT Prison Inmate's Slavery Lawsuit Allowed To Move Forward

BURLINGTON, VT (CBS) - A unique lawsuit filed against the state of Vermont is being allowed continue in the courts. A man is suing Vermont's prison system, claiming they violated his 13th Amendment rights under the Constitution. The 13th Amendment bans slavery.

Finbar McGarry was a PhD student at the University of Vermont when he was arrested in December 2008 for a domestic disturbance.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Mark Katic talks about the case with David Frank of Lawyer's Weekly


Charges were eventually dropped, but for six weeks, he says he was forced to work 14-hour days in the prison laundry for $0.25 an hour.

McGarry says that is slavery. He is suing for 1$1 million.

Dismissed by a lower court, on Friday the 2nd US Circuit Court ruled the lawsuit can proceed.

David Frank of Lawyer's Weekly says the 13th Amendment makes exceptions for prison, but he also points out that McGarry was never found guilty:

"That presumption of innocence gives you some protection," Frank told WBZ NewsRadio 1030.

Frank says win, lose, or settle, McGarry's lawsuit should give prison systems a reason to take a second look at policy.

"Regardless of the outcome of this case, you're talking about the possibility of violating a person's constitutional rights," Frank added. "That's a very serious accusation. And if it's true, it's one that can result in some pretty significant damages."

Read the entire lawsuit here

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