Four Republican lawmakers in Tennessee voted against a measure to remove a section of the state constitution permitting slavery as punishment for a crime, according to local news station WKRN.
The proposed amendment passed the Senate on Monday.
Article I Section 33 of the state constitution states, “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.”
The proposed amendment would replace that with, “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.”
Democratic lawmakers are calling it a loophole for slavery that should be closed. “It’s time that we removed an exception that allows those who are incarcerated to be enslaved,” said Memphis Democrat Sen. Raumesh Akbari.
Republican Senator Joey Hensley stood by his decision to vote against the measure, WKRN reported.
“I didn’t think it was necessary because the constitution already says slavery will be forever prohibited,” Hensley said.
The report noted that Tennessee voters will determine the fate of the proposed amendment in the 2022 election if it successfully passes next in the House.
Image: Tennessee state Sen. Joey Hensley (R). (Screengrab / tnreporttv / YouTube)