There are several states in the country that are now considering a full rejection of specific provisions of the 13th Amendment within their state constitutions which currently allow for prison labor through ballot initiatives to be voted on in November. So what is prison supposed to be, exactly? I’m getting the feeling the left wants to turn the institution into an all expenses paid resort vacation like Sandals instead of something meant to punish and rehabilitate criminals who have violated the law.
“Alabama, Louisiana, Oregon, Tennessee and Vermont will decide whether to end the criminal punishment exception to slavery bans in their state constitutions. The measures wouldn’t immediately affect prison labor, but would be a stepping stone towards that goal, Jennifer Turner, a researcher in the American Civil Liberties Union’s human rights program, told The Washington Post,” the Daily Caller reported.
“These ballot measures are critical,” Turner went on to say. “It’s an essential and necessary prerequisite to addressing the forced labor that persists in our prisons.”
— Ebony Reed (@EbonyReed) October 4, 2022
Apparently, many individuals who are part of the criminal justice reform movement — along with a number of left-wing groups — look at prison labor as modern-day slavery. Why do they see it that way? Because there is, according to these groups, an overrepresentation of black people in prisons across the country, along with the inclusion of the prison exception in the 13th Amendment.
Some prisoners end up working for less than a dollar per hour in dangerous conditions and aren’t provided training to help them gain marketable skills when they are released back into society, says the Marshall Project.
“It’s people on the outside who rail against prison work assignments,” Chandra Bozelko, a former inmate, said during an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “When a prisoner is cooking, mopping floors or folding clothes, she knows somewhere, an unincarcerated person is doing the same thing … she is the closest to free she can be, until she gets out.”
“My prison job made me feel like I was fulfilling my existential duty to society: I was contributing. It doesn’t surprise me that prison work assignments are credited with reducing recidivism,” she went on to say during her chat with the Times. “Any change for good that happened within me while I was incarcerated grew out of my job.”
The states of Colorado, Nevada, and Utah passed similar measures back in 2018, though Colorado’s attempt to end labor in prison is currently being reviewed in court.
Going to prison is supposed to be a punishment for breaking the law. Yes, there are rehabilitative measures for inmates as well. It’s also important to provide prisoners with structure and routine. This keeps them from getting into trouble behind bars as well as providing them with stability when they are released back into society.
Are there some changes that could be made to improve the system? Of course. There’s always room for improvement. But that doesn’t mean we should just toss out the baby with the bathwater. Instead, we look for ways to make the program work better.