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Let’s Make Slavery Illegal in Oregon
We may have become too sensitive

Senator James Manning Jr (D-Eugene), Senator Lew Frederick (D-Portland), and Senator Rob Wagner (D-Lake Oswego) would like us to believe that Oregon was and is a slave state by what is written in the Oregon Constitution, Article I, Section 34. This is what that section reads on the Secretary of State’s website:

Section 34. Slavery or involuntary servitude. There shall be neither slavery, nor involuntary servitude in the State, otherwise than as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted. -- [Added to Bill of Rights as unnumbered section by vote of the people at time of adoption of the Oregon Constitution in accordance with section 4 of Article XVIII thereof]

These legislators have introduced SJR 10, which proposes to amend Section 34 “to prohibit slavery and involuntary servitude in all circumstances.” There proposed revision would read: Sec. 34. There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in this state. Deleting: [the State, otherwise than as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted].

Perhaps they didn’t see the reference to Article XVIII, Section 4, which references and repeats the same wording referring to Article I, Sec. 34. In 1925, Oregon voters repealed the constitutional provisions relating to the exclusion of African-Americans. However, the language relating to race remained in the Oregon Constitution. In 2002, SJR. 7, 2001, the voters passed Ballot Measure 14 removing historical race references. At that time, Section 34 did not trigger any connection between slavery as a race identification for the incarcerated.

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

We may have become too sensitive to now suggest actual circumstances would tie race together with slavery in the context of Section 34. Removing "otherwise than as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” was not meant to imply the incarcerated were slaves any more than anyone else. Prisons employ the incarcerated, whether voluntary or involuntary servitude, to maintain the facilities, clean our highways, make our license plate, among other things. If we remove the “involuntary” from chore assignment and discipline assignment, we have gutted the rehabilitation framework to incorporate them back into society.

If this bill is put to the voters, and we ignorantly pass it, how many people will the state need to employ, at taxpayer’s expense, to do the work that prisoners now do?


--Donna Bleiler

Post Date: 2021-05-24 11:52:34Last Update: 2021-05-24 12:14:28



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