When the 13th Amendment was ratified in 1865, it abolished slavery or, involuntary servitude, in the U.S., with one exception: when used as punishment for a crime. On Nov. 8, voters in four states – Tennessee, Alabama, Oregon and Vermont – eliminated language that allowed involuntary servitude in prisons, the Hill reports. These states join only three others in taking that step to abolish involuntary servitude. Colorado was the first to approve removal of the language from the state constitution in 2018, followed by Nebraska and Utah in 2020. In Congress, Rep. Nikema Williams (D-GA) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) are pushing for the Abolition Amendment to remove the "slavery clause" from the 13th Amendment.
“This horrific loophole in our Constitution is a moral abomination that launched the mass incarceration we see continuing to this day,” Merkley said, adding that voters this month “came together across party lines to say this stain must be removed from state constitutions.” Williams said that “closing the slavery loophole” would be an accomplishment of a lifetime. “After seeing voters in four more states decide there should be no exception to the ban on slavery, I am more motivated than ever to work on passing the Abolition Amendment at the Federal level,” she said.