Commentary: End New York's prison slavery system

Twyla Carter, Zellnor Myrie, and Harvey Epstein

December 08, 2022

Originally published in Times Union on December 08, 2022.

Slavery was just on the ballot. On Election Day, voters in Alabama, Tennessee, Vermont, and Oregon changed their state constitutions to prohibit involuntary servitude as a punishment for people convicted of crimes, marking a turning point in their state histories. Voters showed that red and blue states alike can address the ugly legacy of slavery in our prison systems.

New York must now do the same. It is beyond time for our state to abolish slavery in all its forms, including the practice of forcing incarcerated New Yorkers to work and depriving them of labor protections, including fair and just wages. That’s why we are fighting to advance landmark legislation that would formally abolish slavery in New York state, in partnership with the 13th Forward Coalition. The13th Forward bills would amend our state constitution to include the fundamental right of freedom for all New Yorkers and ensure that all workers in New York are treated with dignity while on the job.