Why Colorado's slavery ban won't end slavery

slavery ban colorado hands breaking chains
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Yes, slavery is still legal.

You know how we used to have slavery, and then we had a civil war, and now slavery is illegal? Turns out ... Not so much.

Slavery was mostly made illegal after the Civil War. But there is one form of legal slavery still on the books: slavery as punishment. As Colorado's constitution reads, there "shall never be in this state either slavery or involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted." Colorado citizens will vote on an amendment to change that in a few weeks.

It sounds like a weird, ancient law that's been all but forgotten, the kind of thing you might read on the back of a Snapple bottle cap during an ice tea workers strike. But if you think about it, punishing crimes with something that looks a lot like slavery is quite common in the U.S.

A lot of people are complaining about the prison industrial complex these days. The U.S. locks up more prisoners than any other country, putting millions of people behind bars. There, they often work as cheap labor for companies like Victoria's Secret (which used prison labor in the 90s).

As Morty would say ...

No judge ever sentenced a criminal to sew underwear (as far as I know). No team of social workers discovered that sewing underwear makes prisoners better people. Prisoners sew underwear because mass production has always relied on cheap labor. By using prisoners, companies ensure that the industrial engine keeps on chugging, no matter how much of the planet or how many people's lives they must use to fuel it.

"I hope that this puts forth the message that our past doesn't have to be our future, that by and large we as Americans are interested in fixing our mistakes and that there's hope for our future," said Jumoke Emery at Abolish Slavery Colorado.

Colorado doesn't want slavery anymore, and that's a nice message. But it's going to take more than a symbolic state amendment to make that message a reality.

Why Colorado's slavery ban won't end slavery
Yes, slavery is still legal.

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