"Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado Constitution that prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude as punishment for a crime and thereby prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude in all circumstances."
At first blush this question may appear preposterous because slavery was surely already abolished, no? As The Denver Post Voter's Guide puts it in the case against: "Slavery and involuntary servitude are already illegal so the change would be merely symbolic"
Well, not so fast there. Though most people still believe the question was settled after the Civil War, enormous loopholes remained in the language - enough to drive a metaphorical Mack Truck through. While the 13th amendment of the U.S. Constitution abolished most forms of slavery when ratified in 1865, it still left those loopholes - namely for involuntary servitude. This was in the form of punishment as integrated in penal institutions. It especially became useful as many private corporations realized they could save big bucks on labor by getting prison labor, i.e. slave labor for little or no pay. Or if you prefer, "indentured servitude".
Thus, such servitude is fully allowed provided "it serve as punishment for a crime, where the party shall have been duly convicted."
In other words, break the law and you could end up in a prison where you're either breaking rocks up for eight to ten hours a day as a slave, or working for a corporation making mittens for 10 cents a day. Slave labor. Basically then, Colorado voters are considering a proposed change to the language of Section 26, Article II of the 1876 state Constitution , to finally eliminate any ambiguity.
It should be noted here that twenty- two other states have similar provisions in their own constitutions, i.e. allowing prison slavery or indentured servitude for those who committed crimes. It may amaze readers to know that only Rhode Island prohibits slavery in all instances. So this is a big deal and as the COS Indy Voter Guide put it bluntly: "This really should be a no brainer. Of course you vote yes!"
If the Amendment passes then, Colorado would be the first state to truly abolish slavery by amending its state constitution. This according to Nathan Woodliff-Stanley, director of the ACLU of Colorado.
Meanwhile, Jumoke Emery, director of the campaign for ProgressNow, and creator of the 'Abolish Slavery Colorado campaign told the WSJ that most people are shocked when informed that the 13th amendment didn't outlaw slavery in every circumstance. He noted that "the language in both the state and U.S. constitutions are a remnant of a more painful time in the country's past."
According to Mr. Woodliff-Stanley the Amendment has broad bipartisan support, and all signs point to a big win in November. As a further point of act, he added that "not many states' voters have prohibited slavery under any conditions.
Historically, for decades after the Civil War, some states used prisoners to work for private companies without any pay whatsoever. Nowadays, such prisoners at least receive a pittance - say $3 a day - to salt away and buy items (like peanuts or candy) from the prison store. But it is exactly because so many states have capitalized on this sordid loophole that Colorado voters now need to send a firm message to the other slave scofflaw states.
That's what I already did, and wifey too, in our votes.
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