NEW YORK (AP) — Democrats in the House and Senate introduced a joint resolution Wednesday aimed at amending the 13th Amendment’s ban on chattel enslavement.
The move would expressly prohibit the use of involuntary servitude as a punishment for crime. The original amendment has permitted exploitation of labor by convicted felons for over 155 years since the abolition of slavery.
Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon tells The Associated Press that the 13th Amendment is in part responsible for the historic mistreatment of Black Americans through the nation's penal systems.
Constitutional amendments are rare, and require approval by two-thirds of the House and Senate, as well as ratification by three-quarters of state legislatures.