PolicyWise S3 E14: Grassroots Campaign Works to End Involuntary Servitude in California

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Involuntary servitude, otherwise known as modern day slavery, exists legally in California’s criminal justice system. The State’s Constitution currently prohibits involuntary servitude except in the punishment of a crime. On this week’s PolicyWise (S3, E14), hosts Michael Wiafe and Ellinor Arzbaecher welcome members of Abolish Bondage Collectively (ABC), a grassroots organization working to end this practice.

“This is something that folks have been organizing against for a long time, pointing out that slavery is present and it’s alive and that the system is profiting off of free labor and disproportionately off African and Indigenous peoples,” said ABC’s Jeronimo Aguilar.

Alyssa Moore, an Elder Freeman Policy Fellow with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, recounts her experience in the criminal justice system from ages 17-40, where she worked numerous jobs from an engineer to cleaning toilets. She was basically a state employee, but without savings, benefits or a resume to help her find employment upon release. “This leaves us coming out feeling like we were robbed using our labor.” She added, “We work five days a week, sometimes more without vacation, without pay. We are essentially slaves of the state.”

One proposed solution is passing ACA 3, introduced by California State Senator Sydney Kamlager (D-30), which would remove the exception in the State Constitution (Update 6/23: ACA 3 failed to advance in the State Senate).

The PolicyWise podcast is a partnership between Youth Leadership Institute and CA FWD and can be heard on Spotify, Apple PodcastsStitcherBreaker AudioRadioPublicPocket Casts and Overcast.


Nadine Ono

All stories by: Nadine Ono