Senator Glazer issues statement after Senate rejects involuntary servitude amendment

Slavery was an evil that will forever mark the history of our great country.

We eliminated it through civil war and the passing of 13e Amendment.

Involuntary servitude – though less known – also had a shameful past.

After emancipation, Southern states sent many black people to prison on trumped up charges and then “rented” them to farms and factories where they were forced to work without pay.

It was slavery by another name.

But ACA 3 is not about slavery. Slavery is prohibited in California by the State Constitution.

ACA 3 isn’t even about involuntary servitude – at least that which was practiced 150 years ago.

The question this measure raises is whether or not California should require felons in state or local prisons to work.

It is certainly a question worthy of debate.

Some say we should pay inmates more than the token few cents an hour they earn today. Others suggest that their working conditions are not always what they should be.

But these issues can be resolved without constitutional amendment.

What ACA 3 could do is end all required work immediately and tie the hands of the Legislative Assembly forever.

Banning the work requirement in our jails and jails would undermine our rehabilitation programs, make prisons more difficult to run safely and, according to the Department of Finance, add more than $1 billion a year to the cost of running the prison system.

It could also reduce the restitution inmates pay to help victims deal with the effects of crimes committed against them – if inmates simply decide not to work.

And as these issues arise – and they surely will – any attempt to resolve them by the legislature or the prison system will be met with litigation.

Inmates will sue the state claiming their wages are too low, their hours are too high, or that tying good time credits and early release to their willingness to work is unconstitutional.

These are questions of policy that lend themselves best to discussion and deliberation at this floor, not the kind of fundamental question that should be referred to the courts.

A few weeks ago, the Senate passed a bill directing the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to develop a wage increase plan for inmate labor. This bill was passed by the Senate on a bipartisan vote of 36-2. This is exactly the way we should approach this issue.

I asked our Legislative Counsel’s office if ACA 3 would ban all work requirements in our prison system. They said that this issue, if ACA 3 were adopted in its current form, would likely be decided by the courts.

I then asked them what we could do to eliminate this ambiguity and retain our decision-making power over the prison system.

The lawyer gave me a simple amendment that they said would achieve these goals:

SECOND. 6. a) Slavery and involuntary servitude are prohibited.

(b) As used in the article, “involuntary servitude” means work done against the will of one person for the benefit of another and under duress. “Involuntary servitude” does not include any rehabilitative activity required of an incarcerated person, including education, job training, or behavioral or substance abuse counseling, or any work task required of a person incarcerated that generally benefits the residents of the facility in which the person is incarcerated, such as cooking, cleaning, grounds maintenance and laundry.

Let’s pass this amendment and then take up the difficult challenge of ensuring that our prisons are run humanely, efficiently and in a way that leads to the rehabilitation of as many criminals as possible.

For more information on ACA 3 – click here

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