Published by The Sacramento Bee
How can California claim to be the nation’s progressive leader if we can’t wipe away a remnant of slavery? California’s leadership has taken amazing steps to defend immigrants, combat climate change and, most recently, protect women’s rights. Yet the state Senate recently failed to pass Assembly Constitutional Amendment 3, which would have given voters an opportunity to remove language in California’s constitution allowing for indentured servitude.
The legacy of slavery and forced labor runs deep in the history of California, which is one of nine states that permit involuntary servitude as a form of criminal punishment. Colorado, Nebraska and Utah have already removed clauses from their constitutions that excepted prisons from bans on servitude, so I struggle to understand how we can so fiercely debate the removal of this stain on our constitution.