5 states voting on 13th Amendment ‘slavery’ loophole allowing involuntary servitude in prisons

Five states will vote during the midterms on whether or not to close a loophole in the 13th Amendment that allows for involuntary servitude as part of the punishment for prisoners serving out their sentences behind bars.

The so-called “slavery” loophole came about when involuntary servitude was made constitutionally illegal in 1865 except when it comes to prisoners, according to the Daily Mail.

Mass incarceration activists and those seeking prison reform have long sought to close the loophole, making it the central point of their argument. Prisoners are typically paid pennies on the dollar for physical labor while behind bars. Authorities claim it benefits society and helps to reform criminals – leftists see it as slavery.

The five states voting on the referendum on November 8 will include Alabama, Louisiana, Oregon, Tennessee, and Vermont.

(Video Credit: WATE 6 On Your Side)

Notably, Vermont was the first state to ban slavery in 1777. But it makes an exception for those “bound by law for the payment of debts, damages, fines, costs, or the like.”

It’s not the only state that has such a clause. Nineteen other states also have similar language on their books.

Colorado, Nebraska, and Utah have already passed similar ballot measures in 2018. Five others states including California, Florida, Ohio, New Jersey, and Texas are preparing to vote on the issue as well.

The only state in the union to ban forced labor as punishment for a crime from the get-go was Rhode Island. That state codified the ruling in its state constitution in 1842.

In Louisiana, its pending ballot initiative prohibits “the use of involuntary servitude except as it applies to the otherwise lawful administration of criminal justice.” What that means exactly is unclear at this point.

Republican Louisiana state Rep. Alan Seabaugh reportedly told PEW Research in an interview that he believes the move “technically allows slavery” and will have little impact on state law.

“It’s essentially just symbolic. It says what’s already on the books – although potentially worse,” Seabaugh asserted adding, “the new amendment technically allows slavery. I don’t think anybody thought of it that way, but that’s what it says.”

Alabama’s initiative goes further, voting on whether to remove “all racist language” from their state constitution.

Leftists and socialists are pushing the closing of the loophole as part of another woke, social justice move.

(Video Credit: Worth Rises)

In 2021, Democrat Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Democratic House Rep. Nikema Williams of Georgia introduced a constitutional amendment that sought to outlaw incarcerated slave labor on the federal level.

“The loophole in our Constitution’s ban on slavery not only allowed slavery to continue but launched an era of discrimination and mass incarceration that continues to this day,” Merkley proclaimed when the legislation was introduced.

Of the 1.2 million people in federal and state prisons currently, approximately 800,000 are forced to work for as little as 50 cents per hour, and in some states, for nothing at all, according to a June 2022 report by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The report goes on to contend that the forced labor of prisoners is an industry worth at least $11 billion.

The #EndTheException coalition, consisting of more than 80 national organizations, including criminal justice reform, civil rights, and labor groups, is leading efforts to pass the abolition amendment at the federal level, according to The Guardian.

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