Photo Credit: Photo by Morgan Lane
For Five U.S. States, Slavery Is Back On The Ballot
It’s unsettling that slavery is on any ballot in nearly 2023. But for voters in five U.S. states, it will be. The Huffington Post reported, “voters in five states are deciding whether to close loopholes that allowed convict labor as an exception to slavery.”
The 13th amendment abolished slavery in the U.S. But in some state constitutions, there’s pro-slavery language. In the eyes of some, this is “just” a technicality, without any real tooth in the modern age. But others, especially Black people, argue that such language should have been eliminated across the board some time ago.
However, “constitutions require lengthy and technically tricky steps before they can be tweaked.”
Which Are The Five States In Question?
Alabama, Louisiana, Oregon, Tennessee and Vermont.
The Huffington Post stated, “the proposed language going before Tennessean voters more clearly distinguishes between the two: ‘slavery and involuntary servitude are forever prohibited. Nothing in this section shall prohibit an inmate from working when the inmate has been duly convicted of a crime.'”
Several Officials Expressed Concern Over Their State Constitutions
“We have got to fix this and we’ve got to fix this right away,” said Raumesh Akbari, a member of the Tennessee State Senate. “Our constitution should reflect the values and the beliefs of our state.”
She added, “we understand that those who are incarcerated cannot be forced to work without pay, but we should not create a situation where they won’t be able to work at all.”
Bianca Tylek of Worth Rises, a criminal justice advocacy group, shared similar sentiments:
“The idea that you could ever finish the sentence ‘slavery’s okay when … ’ has to rip out your soul, and I think it’s what makes this a fight that ignores political lines and brings us together, because it feels so clear,” she said.
Slavery Was Abolished In 1865
The 13th Amendment, which was ratified in December 1865, abolished slavery.
The wording is as follows: “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.”
Other States Have Pro-Slavery Language In Their Constitutions
The Huffington Post noted “that nearly 20 states have constitutions with language permitting slavery and involuntary servitude as criminal punishments.”
Starting in 2018, Colorado changed such language in its constitution. Shortly, Utah and Nebraska did the same.
The Prison Industrial Complex Is Linked To Slavery
The prison industrial complex is a modern-day form of slavery, which overwhelmingly impacts Black and brown people in the U.S.
The U.S is generally more concerned with taking punitive action against those who have broken the law, without looking at the root causes.
Angela Davis said, “imprisonment has become the response to many of the social problems that burden people who are ensconced in poverty. These problems often are veiled by being conveniently grouped together under the category ‘crime’ and by the automatic attribution of criminal behavior to people of color.”
She added: “homelessness, unemployment, drug addiction, mental illness, and illiteracy are only a few of the problems that disappear from public view when the human beings contending with them are relegated to cages.”
The Fate Of Incarcerated People In The Five States Is On The Line
The Huffington Post explained, “many incarcerated workers make pennies on the dollar, which isn’t expected to change if the proposals succeed. Inmates who refuse to work may be denied phone calls or visits with family, punished with solitary confinement and even be denied parole.”