Slavery, for the most part, has been abolished in this country. I say for the most part because the 13th Amendment allows for slavery to be used as a form of punishment. Some states have already elected to remove that clause from their local constitutions and Ohio is working to be next on the list.
CNN reports that on Juneteenth, Ohio state Sen. Cecil Thomas (D) announced that he will introduce a joint resolution that will remove the exception from the state constitution. Article 1, Section 6 of Ohio’s state constitution says, “There shall be no slavery in this state; nor involuntary servitude, unless for the punishment of crime.” Thomas’s resolution will remove “unless for the punishment of the crime,” from the law. The amendment is still in the process of being drafted and is due to be delivered within the next week.
“As we embark on making structural changes to our laws and policies that adversely impact people of color, it is important that Ohio lawmakers stand together to eliminate this painful reminder of a ruinous time in the history of our country,” Thomas wrote in a statement released online. Stephanie Howse, an Democratic Ohio State Rep. and President of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, expressed disbelief at the language. “Most legislators, even ourselves didn’t even realize that it was still here in our constitution,” Howse told WEWS.
Should the legislation be passed through the state Senate and state House with three/fifths of the vote it will be placed on the general election ballot to be voted upon in November.
This is not the first time an effort has been made to remove such language from the state constitution. In 2016, Ohio State Rep. Alicia Reece (D) introduced similar legislation to remove the slavery references from the state constitution. “No slavery, no exceptions,” Reese said in a statement. “Over 150 years after our nation abolished slavery, there can be no acceptable circumstance for slavery in our state, and our constitution must reflect that. In 2016, this General Assembly should give Ohioans the opportunity to take slavery out of our state’s guiding document.”
Had they only listened to a black woman, this would have already gotten done. Hopefully, this effort will prove more successful.