Posted on June 25, 2024

California Senate Considers Measures Against Slavery, Poll Harassment, Disinformation

Alan Riquelmy, Courthouse News Service, June 18, 2024

Applause broke out Tuesday after a proposed ballot measure that would prohibit involuntary servitude by California prisoners passed a key vote.

But Assembly Constitutional Amendment 8 still has a series of hurdles ahead of it before it can appear on the November ballot.

Existing law prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. The legislation — written by Assemblymember Lori Wilson, a Suisun City Democrat — would not allow a prison or jail to punish a prisoner for refusing to perform work. Also, it wouldn’t prohibit those facilities from offering someone credit toward their sentence if they voluntarily opt to work.

“California needs to end slavery in every single form, including involuntary servitude, now,” Wilson said.

A previous constitutional amendment that would have removed the involuntary servitude language from the state constitution failed on the Senate floor in 2022.

The legislation, which already has passed the Assembly by a two-thirds vote, passed the state Senate’s Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee on Tuesday. {snip}

The amendment must pass the Senate and return to the Assembly for another vote there by June 27 to appear on the Nov. 5 general election ballot.

Lawrence Cox, with All of Us or None, told the committee that forced labor doesn’t lead to rehabilitation. Also supporting the bill, Reverend Quentisha Davis Wiles said “involuntary servitude” doesn’t exist.

“It is called slavery,” she added, urging the committee to pass the bill.

The legislation was deemed a priority by the California Legislative Black Caucus.

Wilson’s bill was one of several the elections committee passed on Tuesday. It also passed Assembly Bill 544, written by Los Angeles Democratic Assemblymember Isaac Bryan. The bill would offer grants to three counties for a program that helps ease the voting process for people in prison or jail who have the right to vote.

“Democracy thrives when it includes everybody,” Bryan said.