While voters in Alabama, Tennessee and Vermont approved ballot measures that will change their state constitutions to prohibit slavery and involuntary servitude as punishment for crime, Louisiana, a former slave-holding state, did not, reports Aaron Morrison for the Associated Press. Meanwhile, in Oregon, “yes” was leading its anti-slavery ballot initiative, but the vote remained too early to call as of Wednesday morning.
The initiatives won’t force immediate changes in the states’ prisons, but they may invite legal challenges over the practice of coercing prisoners to work under threat of sanctions or loss of privileges if they refuse the work. More than a dozen states still have constitutions that include language permitting slavery and involuntary servitude for prisoners. Several other states have no constitutional language for or against the use of forced prison labor.