Tennessee is finally taking a provision that seemed to allow slavery in its prisons out of the constitution, while still allowing inmates to work by choice.
As Rep. Joe Towns says, this probably should’ve been done a long time ago.
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According to the Daily Memphian:
Rep. Joe Towns was “shocked” a few years ago when he found out slavery still exists in Article I Section 33 of the state Constitution, which tracks the U.S. 13th Amendment and narrows the category of slaves to those convicted of a crime.
“It was deliberately left in the Constitution. That’s still a dig in the wound, the sore wound of enslaved people or prisoners of war, however you want to term it, 150 years since (the Emancipation Proclamation),” Towns said in an interview this week. “It shouldn’t be there, not in a democracy we tout ourselves to be around the world. It never should have been there, and it should not be there.”
Towns passed a resolution 95-0 on the House floor in 2018 to remove references to slavery and involuntary servitude from the Tennessee Constitution. But the measure’s Senate companion failed to start moving in that chamber soon enough to be considered before the Legislature adjourned.
Said Towns: “Just like we’re doing certain cold cases, we’re trying to clean up some of this stuff that’s not been purged and gotten rid of and brought into modern thinking. It’s just something that should not exist.”
The senate bill was carried by state Sen. Raumesh Akbari, a Memphis Democrat.