Listen to this article here
Four states voted to ban slavery and involuntary servitude from their constitutions except Louisiana, which voted to keep it.
Alabama, Oregon, Tennessee, and Vermont all voted to remove slavery and involuntary servitude as punishment for a crime from their state constitutions in Tuesday’s midterm elections (At the time of publication, Oregon’s ballot measure banning slavery was 54.3% in favor with 64% reporting according to the AP).
In Louisiana, a former slave-holding state, 60.9% voted against removing slavery and involuntary servitude from their constitution.
Forced prison labor for individuals convicted of specific crimes has long been used as a way to uphold slavery in many states across the U.S. According to a report by the Sentencing Project, Black Americans are incarcerated in state prisons at nearly five times the rate of White Americans.
ICYMI: Slavery was on the ballot for voters in five U.S. states pic.twitter.com/uvvo2m4FI8
— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) November 9, 2022
Slavery as punishment for a crime still legal in Louisiana
It comes as a shock to some and no surprise to others that a large portion of the population still believe in 2022 that slavery and involuntary servitude is acceptable in certain circumstances.
Groups have revived a national push to amend the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which contains a loophole that allows for slavery and involuntary servitude.
Many former slave-holding states, like Louisiana, used the loophole to criminalize newly freed enslaved Black people and create involuntarily held workforces during Reconstruction.
4 states — VT, AL, TN, OR — voted to abolish slavery in prison, overturning loopholes permitting slavery as "punishment for crime."
800,000 people in U.S. prisons are forced to work for little or no pay, often at the threat of extra punishment.
Average pay: as low as $0.13/hr. pic.twitter.com/Waw8KWEZMx
— AJ+ (@ajplus) November 9, 2022
Louisiana’s sprawling state penitentiary, nicknamed “Angola”, recently came under fire when the prison accepted a group of eight children in juvenile custody and housed them in an empty building that once housed inmates on death row.
The Black Wall Street Times spoke with Gina Womack, executive director and co-founder of Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Youth who said moving the children “was totally a shock and out of the blue.”
She continued, “We passed juvenile justice reform in 2003 which transformed our power system, how we coordinate services, and restorative justice. Due to changing of the guard in so many places, a lot of the reforms were never fully implemented. As a result, over time they’ve moved away from restorative practices to being more punitive.”
The total number of states who have officially banned slavery and involuntary servitude now total eight. Alabama, Colorado, Nebraska, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, and Vermont all have voted to completely abolish slavery in their states.
“It is time for all Americans to come together and say that it must be struck from the U.S. Constitution,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore) told the AP. “There should be no exceptions to a ban on slavery.”