State government in the November election will spring on the voters a ban on slavery they will likely approve.
Not being informed about the change, hearing no news and no talking-heads discourse about it, they will read the proposed constitutional amendment and approve Nov. 8.
The vote is for a revision of the existing ban on private slavery and will allow for state slavery to be profitable for the state and its corporate allies through inmate leasing and other forms of corporate gain.
The state is supposed to “publish” proposals to change the constitution. But the secretary is not doing that. The webpage that supposedly “publishes” the proposed amendment gives no clue to its content. The words of the proposed amendment are not to be found in the page of secretary of state Tre Hargett.
The site heralds “proposed constitutional amendments.” Two links are provided. One link about the proposed amendment “to prohibit slavery and involuntary servitude” takes you to the one-page resolution in the Senate, directing that “this resolution proposing such amendment be published in accordance with Article XI, Section 3 of the Constitution.”
But the amendment is not available.
A second link ostensibly containing the proposed change brings up a page for the state Sen. Mark Pody, and SJR 55, a 13-line resolution, part of the mechanics of getting a constitutional amendment into public view. The document does not reveal the amendment.
Making slavery profitable
Slavery has been the law in the land since the state’s beginning. Slavery is in the bill of rights, giving via an exception the state a monopoly on the practice in its prison system.
Art. 1, Sect. 33. That slavery and involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, are forever prohibited in this state. [emphasis added]
The proposed change is as follows:
Slavery and involuntary servitude are forever prohibited. Nothing in this section shall prohibit an inmate from working when the inmate has been duly convicted of a crime. [emphasis added]
What is prohibited in the amendment is private chattel slavery. Public slavery continues, but with the seeming improvement of “inmates *** working.”
Warns legal reformer John Gentry: “Slavery has already been constitutionally prohibited since 1870. Our private prison corporations want to use free inmate labor to lower costs. Or, alternatively, government wants to give jobs to inmates and then garnish their wages for child support, with our corrupt courts incentivized by federal government dollars to administer child support, diminishing the Social Security trust fund. Or both.
“Any money garnished will not go to single parents, it will go to the state,” Mr. Gentry says. “The inmates working will not result in lower prison cost savings passed on to the state. The prison corporations will just have a better bottom line.”
Mr. Gentry is an independent candidate for governor, and an active user of the courts seeking redress of grievances and the rights of remonstrance and address.
The constitution at Art. 11, sect. 3 says “such proposed amendment or amendments shall be entered on their journals *** and shall be published six months previous to the time of making such choice.” To publish is “To make public; to circulate; to make known to people in general. To issue; to put into circulation. An advising of the public. Or making known of something to the public for a purpose,” according to Black’s Law Dictionary, 5th ed.
The secretary of state’s position, as evidenced by his website, is that publishing the enabling legislation on the agency’s website is sufficient notice, even absent the language of the slavery amendment.
Voters are being asked to approve of measures about which they have not heard the first word. This vote is 161 days away on Nov. 2.
State uses inmate labor already
It’s not immediately clear how amending the constitution will improve further the operations of state government.
The state has been involved in inmate labor for at least 28 years through Tricor, a prison industry operator that is a state agency serving “the needs of private industry” such as hardwood flooring maker American OEM and service industry providers.
Tricor runs call centers at the Debra K. Johnson Rehabilitation Center in Nashville, the Women’s Therapeutic Residential Center in Henning and the Northwest Correctional Complex in Tiptonville. “Specifically, we do this through the context of work, employing Tennessee civilians and placing Offenders in what we call a ‘blended workforce,’” the agency says.
Tricor “does not stand alone when it comes to call centers in correctional industries,” the agency says on its website. “There are currently at least 8 states and the federal government that successfully operate call centers in correctional institutions. Many of these programs have been in place for over 20 years.”