They promote law that would prohibit forced labor for pennies in New York prisons

A coalition of civic organizations is calling on the State Assembly to pass legislation that would amend the New York Constitution to prohibit forced labor in jails and prisons, whose model has been typified as a form of “modern slavery”.

“Today our state continues to force the prison population to work for pennies under the threat of punishments such as solitary confinement, delays in parole, and loss of family visitation privileges. These workers generate useful products for profit, as was the case with hand sanitizers during the hardest part of the pandemic,” he pondered. lisa sugar, spokesman for the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU).

According to the balance of several organizations, grouped in the movement Forward 13 (Forward 13), incarcerated New Yorkers work from prison maintenance to making street signs and public school desks. and they get paid just pennies an hour for their work.

Faced with a panorama that they describe as “vegan” and “primitive”, this coalition is pushing the Anti-Slavery Law in New York in which the abolition of slavery without exception would be enshrined in the state constitution, even for those convicted of crimes.

In addition, it is proposed Law of Equity and Opportunity for Incarcerated Workers, a side initiative that would ensure that all New York workers, including those incarcerated, receive basic job protections, a fair wage and are protected from forced labor through threats of punishment.

That’s why a group of advocates met this week in Lower Manhattan to commemorate the 157th Anniversary of the Ratification of the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution., which ended slavery, including one exception: “Neither slavery, nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime…will exist within the United States.”

It is a reality in other states

New York activists come from various backgrounds. Recently, Alabama, Tennessee, Vermont, and Oregon passed abolition amendments, officially closing the prison slavery loophole in their constitutions, nearly 160 years after the ratification of the 13th Amendment. They join Utah, Colorado and Nebraska who made these changes since 2018.

“Simply put, freedom and opportunity are New York values. It is time that we eradicate forced labor. All New Yorkers deserve dignity and respect. Let’s do this,” said state senator Zellnor Myrie (D-20), one of the sponsors of this pair of legislation.

In this sense, expressions like Wilfredo Laracuente, who today is the leader of the Adelante 13 campaign He recounted that he worked in prison for 10 years, building the very chairs that legislators sit in in Albany while they write laws.

“I knew that if I refused to work, I would be severely punished. Although the most I ever made was 45 cents an hour for backbreaking work. If that’s not slavery, what is? he asked himself.

The Adelante 13 coalition is made up of the Legal Aid Society of NY, The NY Civil Liberties Union, Color of Change, Citizen Actions, and a Little Piece of Light.

The Data: 13 to 52 cents per hour on average throughout the country, the prison population receives for labor services.

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