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A stipulation allowing slavery as a form of punishment has just been voted out of Colorado’s state constitution.

From NPR:

The amendment was put on the ballot with overwhelming bipartisan support from Colorado’s lawmakers. It will change Article II, Section 26 of the state’s constitution, which has stated for more than 100 years: “Slavery prohibited. 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.”


The language of the sentence will be changed by cutting away everything after “servitude.”

If you know anything about the prison industrial complex, which is already used to exploit people for free labor and often maintains hellish environments for inmates, that last part should be ringing alarm bells in your head. Even if you don’t, people have a way of doing horrifying things in the name of free labor.

This wasn’t the first time lawmakers tried to get this amendment passed. A couple years ago, it failed in part because “the language on that year’s ballot was deemed too convoluted.” This time, the measure passed with 65 percent approval, which is far more than enough. But you have to wonder: What’s going on with that other 35 percent?

Well, per NPR:

Critics of the amendment have also said it “could interfere with prison labor for things like fighting wildfires,” as member station KUNC reported.


Look, something is really fucking wrong with some of you.

I’m not going to waste words here saying why it’s, ah, maybe a little messed up to have inmates fighting fires for $6 a day, but I will say that actively trying to exploit labor to save money makes you an asshole, full stop. I’ll also say that the way we view inmates—here is an example of a thought experiment for self-driving cars which places criminals as a lower priority than dogs to save from a car crash!—is terrifying and should maybe not be left to the whims of people who maybe see them as less than human. They really need as much protection as possible from some of you motherfuckers.


We know Colorado isn’t insulated from the rampant racism we often see in the criminal justice system, and the state hasn’t had a spotless track record on forced/unpaid immigrant labor, either. Colorado still has a hell of a lot of things to fix. And it’s no secret that labor as a punitive method is still a big-time factor fueling this country’s capitalist machine. Hopefully, this will just make it that much harder. I’m not holding my breath, but maybe it’s a step in the right direction.

To freedom!

Natalie Degraffinried is a senior editor for Kotaku.

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