At least 3 states approve anti-slavery ballot measures

The initiatives won’t force immediate changes to state prisons, but they could present legal challenges to forced labor.

WASHINGTON — Voters in three states have passed ballot measures that would change their state constitutions to ban slavery and involuntary slavery as punishment for crime, while those in The fourth state rejected the move. Measures passed on Tuesday restricted the use of prison labor in Alabama, Tennessee and Vermont. In Oregon, “yes” led the initiative to vote against slavery, but the vote was still too early to call Wednesday morning.

In Louisiana, a former slave state, voters rejected a so-called 7th Amendment voting question asking if they supported a constitutional amendment to ban the use of involuntary slavery in the system. criminal justice system or not.

The initiatives won’t force state prisons to change immediately, but they could present legal challenges of forcing inmates to work under the threat of sanctions. or lose privileges if they turn down the job.

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The result was lauded among anti-slavery advocates, including those pushing for further amendments to the United States Constitution, which outlawed slavery and involuntary slavery, except as a form of criminal punishment. More than 150 years after enslaved Africans and their descendants were freed from slavery through the ratification of the 13th Amendment, the slavery exception continues to allow those detention and exploitation of cheap labor.

“Voters in Oregon and other states rallied across parties to say this stain must be removed from state constitutions,” said Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, a Democrat. , told the Associated Press.

“Now, it is time for all Americans to rally together and say that it must be removed from the Constitution of the United States. There should be no exception to the slavery ban,” he said.

Coinciding with the creation of the federal holiday last June 13, Merkley and Representative Nikema Williams, D-Georgia, reintroduced the 13th Amendment to end the slavery exception rate. If it wins Congressional approval, the constitutional amendment must be ratified by three-quarters of the US states.

After Tuesday’s vote, more than a dozen states still have constitutions that include language that allows slavery and involuntary slavery for prisoners. Several other states have no constitutional language for or against the use of forced labor in prisons.

Colorado voters became the first to approve the removal of slave language from the state constitution in 2018, followed by Nebraska and Utah two years later.

The movement to end or regulate the use of prison labor has existed for decades, dating back to the time when the former Confederate states sought to perpetuate the use of chattel slavery after the Civil War. Southern states used apartheid laws, known as the “Black Code,” to criminalize, imprison, and re-enslave black Americans for acts of kindness.

Today, prison labor is a multi-billion dollar activity. For comparison, workers can earn dollars. And inmates who refuse to work can be denied privileges like phone calls and family visits, as well as face solitary confinement, all strange punishments similar to those used in prisons. slavery in the past.

“The 13th Amendment didn’t really abolish slavery – what it did was make it invisible,” said Bianca Tylek, an abolitionist advocate and executive director of the advocacy group criminal justice Worth Rises, told the AP in an interview ahead of Election Day.

She said the passage of ballot initiatives, especially in red states like Alabama, “is a great signal to what can happen at the federal level.”

“There’s a big opportunity here, in this moment,” said Tylek. At least 3 states approve anti-slavery ballot measures

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