Many states still allow the incarcerated to be forced into labor for a pittance, a historical extension of slavery that must be eradicated.

By Giuliana Perrone,

If you’re looking for a rare bit of good news, look no further: California is finally taking steps to abolish slavery from its constitution by banning it in state prisons. On June 27, 2024, the state legislature passed the End Slavery in California Act, teeing up a statewide vote this fall on whether to end forced prison labor in the Golden State.

As of now though, California remains among the 16 states that allow the forced servitude of its prisoners. California’s Constitution, like the 13th Amendment, bans involuntary servitude except as punishment for a crime. This new amendment would remove that exception, often dubbed the “slavery loophole.”

Prison Work Crew (ca. 9 Members) Digging Trench and 1 Guard

Voters in four states — Alabama, Oregon, Tennessee and Vermont — have recently approved similar proposals. This burgeoning movement to close the exception should spur us all to work toward abolishing carceral slavery everywhere it still exists.

True abolition requires the total demolition of slavery and its racist legacies. History tells us what happens when abolition fails — continued exploitation and subjugation of people, incarcerated or otherwise. Typically, non-white Americans pay the highest price.

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