Minnesota Lawmakers Seek to Amend State Constitution to Remove Slavery Punishment

Illustration for article titled Minnesota Lawmakers Seek to Amend State Constitution to Remove Slavery Punishment
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I feel like if one were to go through the lawbooks of their state you would find many odd things you didn’t know were criminal. Conversely, you may also find unusual punishments for a crime. Typically, these laws and punishments are mildly amusing at best. In the case of Minnesota, well, not so much.


CNN reports that lawmakers in the state introduced an amendment on Thursday to remove slavery from the state’s constitution. The state’s bill of rights was drafted in 1857 and in it stands a clause that says: “There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the state otherwise than as punishment for a crime of which the party has been convicted.” While the 13th amendment abolished slavery, it still permitted its use as punishment for a crime.

The amendment was authored by Rep. John Lesch and Rep. Rena Moran and was inspired by St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell. Axtell made a Facebook post last year saying he wanted to “ignite a movement” to have slavery removed from the state’s constitution. Historians will note this as one of the few instances where a Facebook post by a cop wasn’t horrifically racist. The amendment will receive a hearing on Tuesday.

Minnesota isn’t the first state to do this as Colorado removed slavery from its constitution back in 2018. I mean, this is cool but it seems like one of those instances where folks are going to pat themselves on the back for “doing the right thing.” It doesn’t help anyone, it doesn’t erase the shame of slavery. It’s the legislative equivalent of the director’s cut of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Like yeah, I guess this is marginally better but there are fundamental problems here that can’t be solved with some minor tweaks.

The stylin', profilin', limousine riding, jet flying, wheelin' and dealin' nerd of The Root.



So the allowance of slavery as a punishment for a crime allows for the bullshit we currently have with the incarcerated being forced to work for almost nothing. Does this make up for the enslavement of blacks and white supremacy? No, of course not.

Is this basic fucking decency that should be the law everywhere? Yeah. Prisons should not be able to pay below minimum wage for jobs.