Bill would remove slavery from state constitution
(MADISON) – Today, State Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) announced she will propose a constitutional amendment to ban slavery, which is still permitted for Wisconsin prisoners.
Article I, Section 2 of Wisconsin’s Constitution states, “There shall be neither slavery, nor involuntary servitude in this state, otherwise than for the punishment of crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” The constitution leaves the door open for slavery in prisons.
“Wisconsin’s constitutional slavery ban shouldn’t come with a loophole,” said Taylor. “Slavery is never okay, even in prison.”
Through the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln freed slaves in the south. Notice of the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t make its way to Galveston, Texas until June 19, 1865, when history acknowledges the final slaves were freed in America. June 19, known as “Juneteenth” is recognized as an official state holiday as a result of a bill Senator Taylor authored.
“In our current political climate, we’ve seen laws and traditions that have stood for decades or even a century crumble,” said Taylor. “I’m glad Wisconsin doesn’t currently balance our books using unpaid mandatory prison labor and I want to make sure we never see anything like a chain gang here.”
Taylor’s district includes the zip code 53206, the most heavily incarcerated zip code in the nation. She intends to introduce the ban as a constitutional amendment in 2017, when the Legislature reconvenes. Constitutional amendments must pass two consecutive legislative sessions and then be approved by a statewide referendum. In Louisiana, inmates work on the same plantations their ancestors worked as slaves. Rhode Island, on the other hand, operates its Department of Corrections lawfully under their state’s constitutional ban on slavery. Voters in Colorado will soon vote on a similar ban.