Home » 2 states move to get “slavery” provisions out of state constitutions

2 states move to get “slavery” provisions out of state constitutions

by The Grio

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Lawmakers in Nevada and California are advancing legislation to remove “involuntary servitude” from their states’ constitutions, a move that follows four states’ bans on forced labor that passed in ballot measures last fall.

The goal of these proposals is to remove exceptions from the states’ constitutions that allow forced labor as criminal punishment. The efforts come amid a growing push among some states to scrub outdated, century-old language from their state constitutions. Last fall, voters approved similar ballot measures in Alabama, Oregon, Tennessee and Vermont.

About a dozen states are pushing this year to get rid of the involuntary servitude exceptions, according to the Abolish Slavery National Network. Some advocates said this has major legal implications today, particularly in litigation related to prison labor pay and conditions.

It’s not uncommon for prisoners in California, Nevada and other states to be paid less than $1 an hour to fight fires, clean prison cells, make license plates or do yardwork at cemeteries.

Samuel Brown, who was formerly incarcerated with a life sentence, helped author an anti-involuntary servitude amendment in California last year. He said incarcerated people can be forced to do work that is unsafe and puts their health at risk. Even more, he described how terrified he was when he had to disinfect jail cells after someone tested positive for COVID-19.

Brown said the amendment that is being reintroduced this year is long overdue.

“We have an opportunity to stamp it out once and for all. We’re not going to stop until we get it done,” he said.

The language allowing involuntary servitude that still exists in more than a dozen state constitutions is one of the lasting legacies of chattel slavery in the United States. Colorado became the first state in recent years to revise its constitution in 2018 to ban…

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