Posted by 25 July 2018
The constitutions of both Colorado and the United States ban slavery and involuntary servitude, but they contain one exception – those who are being punished for a crime can still be forced to work without pay. This year, Colorado voters will face a ballot amendment that would end this practice in that state.
Under Colorado’s constitution, if someone has been convicted of a crime it is legal for the state to put that person to work without paying him or her. Half the states allow such unpaid labor for convicts, while the other half ban it.
Legislators voted to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would, if passed, ban slavery and involuntary servitude completely in Colorado. They placed an identical amendment on the ballot in 2016, but voters narrowly defeated it.
Supporters of this amendment say that the current language allowing prisoners to be forced to do unpaid work is a relic from another time when the dignity of all people was not recognized. They say it will be a positive symbolic change for Colorado to ban slavery in all cases. Opponents of changing the language note that prisons offer a variety of work programs that are aimed at rehabilitating prisoners. They say that amending the constitution may affect the legal status of these programs.
Do you think that prisoners should be forced to work without pay? Or do prison laborers deserve to be paid for their labor?