MONROE, La. (KTVE/KARD) – Amendment number 7 looks at removing language from the state constitution that allows involuntary slavery as a punishment for a crime. This means incarcerated people could still be forced to perform labor.
Amendment 7 is an issue that’s been fought for in the legislature for years – but is now met with some concerns.
The Bill’s author, Rep. Edmond Jordan of Brusly, originally wanted the language struck from the constitution and saw this as a compromise.
But after seeing the ballot language there are concerns it could potentially expand the punishment due to the ambiguous text.
Professor of political science at ULM, Joshua Stockley, says this amendment is a symbolic statement for the state of Louisiana.
“This ammendament is cleaning the words to the extend that it is indicating that slavery and involuntary servitude is prohibited in its exact form.”
Currently the state constitution bans slavery and involuntary servitude except as “Punishment for a Crime.” Stockley says this is an important wording change in the amendment.
“Because as currently worded, we do accept in the latter case ‘punishment for a crime’. So, you just kinda feel like the door is still open for something to resemble that,” explained Stockley. “You don’t want anyone to have that uncertainty, and you want to make it clear to your own state that this is not acceptable in any form.”
As far as the consequences of this amendment if it fails to pass, Stockley says it could have a negative impact.
“It would be a public relations disaster for the state of Louisiana if this amendment fails.”
Here is a breakdown of Amendment No. 7
A vote for would: Rework the state constitutional ban on slavery and involuntary servitude, allowing their use only for the “lawful administration of criminal justice.”
A vote against would: Keep the state’s current constitutional language banning slavery and involuntary servitude, but allowing involuntary servitude as a “punishment for crime.”
Argument for: The current provision is antiquated and tied to Louisiana’s history of slavery, segregation and convictleasing. The new language creates a set of circumstances when involuntary servitude is allowed. Many other states don’t have the language in their constitutions at all and have found ways to allow prison labor.
Argument against: The new language is ambiguous and doesn’t change anything about prison conditions and allowance of prison labor. The revisions could be interpreted to broaden the allowed uses of slavery and involuntary servitude in the criminal justice system. The rewrite is unnecessary because the U.S. Constitution already outlaws slavery and involuntary servitude except for those convicted of crimes.