On October 15, 2015, Scott Keyes with ThinkProgress.org posted an article detailing Mike Huckabee’s appearance on a conservative radio program:
The United States criminal justice system could be improved if we sell poor people convicted of crimes into slavery, according to Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.
The former Arkansas governor weighed in on our nation’s current criminal justice system during an appearance yesterday on Mickelson in the Morning, a leading Iowa radio program.
Host Jan Mickelson began by bemoaning that the “criminal justice system has been taken over by progressives.” In order to fight back, he argued, conservatives should look to the biblical Book of Exodus. “It says, if a person steals, they have to pay it back two-fold, four-fold,” Mickelson explained. “If they don’t have anything, we’re supposed to take them down and sell them.”
Mickelson went on to argue why jails, which he claimed are a “pagan invention,” are inferior to slavery: “We indenture them and they have to spend their time not sitting on their stump in a jail cell, they’re supposed to be working off the debt.”
“Wouldn’t that be a better choice?” the host asked.
“Well, it really would be,” Huckabee replied without missing a beat. “Sometimes the best way to deal with a nonviolent criminal behavior is what you just suggested.”
Listen to it:
Huckabee, who was a Baptist pastor before entering politics, is no doubt familiar with the Exodus 22:3 passage to which Mickelson referred: “Anyone who steals must certainly make restitution, but if they have nothing, they must be sold to pay for their theft.”
But U.S. law, unlike biblical penal prescriptions, forbids selling human beings like chattel. The United States also bans debtors’ prisons and the Supreme Court has ruled that it is unconstitutional to imprison people who are too destitute to pay court fines. (Contra these bans,many localities are being sued for still running debtors’ prisons.)
This isn’t the first time Mickelson has endorsed reinstating slavery in the United States. In August, Mickelson argued that undocumented immigrants should “become property of the state,” who should “extort or exploit or indenture [their] labor.” After a caller pointed out that what he was describing is slavery, Mickelson responded, “Well, what’s wrong with slavery?”
But Huckabee’s comments, which come 150 years after the 13th Amendment’s adoption, appear to be the first time in modern history that a credible presidential candidate has joined the fringe call to reinstate slavery.