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Five States To Vote On Clauses Allowing Low Pay For Inmates

Known as the slavery loophole, an exception in the Constitution's Thirteenth Amendment allows the exploitation of 800,000 prisoners in the U.S. to be paid unfairly low wages for their labor. When prison reformer, Johnny Perez was incarcerated, he made 17 cents to 36 cents per hour, reports The Guardian. The loophole forces those working in prison to receive tiny sums of money because if they refuse to do the job, the consequences may be dire. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery but included an exception for "a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted." A report by the American Civil Liberties concluded that the inmate labor conditions violate fundamental human rights to life and dignity. “It’s still continuing to happen and it disproportionately impacts Black, brown and Indigenous people,” said Perez. “So long as the exception clause exists, we will always have an underclass in this society that is going to be the dumping ground for our problems and our shortcomings.”

A campaign to amend the constitution and end the exception of the 13th Amendment is being promoted by U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams (D-GA) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR). The bill has 175 co-sponsors in the House, and 14 co-sponsors in the Senate. In November, voters will decide on whether to remove exception clauses from their state constitutions in Alabama, Louisiana, Oregon, Tennessee and Vermont. An abolition amendment passed in the California assembly but failed to receive a Senate vote so that it could be on the ballot.


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