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Democracy Now!

How the 'Abolition Amendment' Would End Constitutional Loophole That Allows Forced Labor in Prisons

After President Biden signed legislation this month to create a federal holiday commemorating June 19 as Juneteenth, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley and Georgia Congressmember Nikema Williams reintroduced what is being called the "Abolition Amendment" to amend the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which banned slavery and involuntary servitude "except as a punishment for crime" — a clause that has allowed the widespread use of forced prison labor.

"Eliminating the loophole … is one way to continue moving forward with addressing the problems of our past and building for the future," says Democratic Congressmember Nikema Williams. "American prisons are run by incarcerated labor," adds Jorge Renaud, national criminal justice director for Latino Justice, who experienced forced labor while serving 27 years in a Texas prison.

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