Policy Brief: The Impacts of Compulsory Prison Labor Ballot Initiatives on Pregnant & Postpartum Incarcerated Women of Color

On November 8, 2022, voters in Alabama, Vermont, Oregon and Tennessee approved ballot measures that strike 13th Amendment-like language from their state's constitution. Previous language had created a loophole, allowing each state prison system to force people experiencing incarceration to work for little or no pay if they were duly convicted of a crime. It is important to note that the exact language of each measure varies. While the measures in Alabama and Vermont unequivocally close the loophole, those in Tennessee and Oregon may close the loopholes, but this is dependent on how these measures are interpreted and implemented. 

Most importantly, voters in Louisiana did not approve a similar measure on their ballot that purported to eradicate their state’s compulsory labor exemption for incarcerated people, but may have actually expanded the forced labor loophole to all those who interact with the criminal legal system – not just those who are convicted. 

For an in-depth analysis about the importance of these ballot initiatives, and their specific implications for incarcerated pregnant and postpartum women of color, please see the policy brief below.