Voters adopted initiatives that will amend the state constitutions of their respective states to outlaw slavery and the use of forced labor as a form of punishment.
Prison labor is no longer used in Alabama, Tennessee, or Vermont as a result of the measures. Although it was still too early to make a prediction, “yes” was leading in Oregon’s anti-slavery ballot issue.
A former slave-holding in Louisiana.
Voters in Louisiana, a state that once owned slaves, rejected Amendment 7, a ballot question that questioned whether they backed a constitutional amendment that would have outlawed the use of forced labor in the criminal justice system.
Anti-slavery activists, including those working to further amend the U.S. Constitution, which forbids slavery and involuntary servitude except as a form of criminal punishment, applauded the results. The 13th Amendment’s slavery provision still allows for the exploitation of low-wage labor by prisoners more than 150 years after enslaved Africans and their descendants were freed from bondage.
Prison labor is a multimillion dollar industry nowadays. Workers make pennies on the dollar in comparison. Additionally, inmates who refuse to work may be denied privileges like phone calls and family visits, as well as endure solitary confinement, all of which are harsh penalties that strangely resemble those used during antebellum slavery.
In an interview with the AP before the election, anti-slavery campaigner and executive director of the criminal justice advocacy group Worth Rises Bianca Tylek said, “The 13th Amendment didn’t actually abolish slavery — what it did was make it invisible.”