By Piper Naudin
LSU Manship School News Service
BATON ROUGE--A Senate committee advanced a bill, 5-1, giving voters a chance to amend language in the Louisiana Constitution to say that involuntary servitude and slavery “are forever prohibited.”
Rep. Edmond Jordan, D-Baton Rouge, presented House Bill 211 to the Senate Judiciary A Committee. The committee approved amendments clarifying that the bill would not affect labor programs within the criminal justice system.
Committee Chairman Sen. Barrow Peacock, R-Bossier City, questioned the purpose of the bill if it would not provide any real change. Jordan stated that HB 211 and its amendments were just language clean-up measures.
“This bill has a symbolic meaning,” Jordan said. “It is impactful and meaningful to all of the black men, women, and children in Louisiana.”
Voters in Louisiana rejected a similar bill by Jordan in 2022 after he conceded that the language needed fine-tuning. The bill passed the House 98-0 earlier this month.
If the full Senate agrees and the governor signs the bill, the proposed constitutional amendment would be on the ballot in October.
While the legislation is not meant to change the criminal justice system, there has been broader pushback against the labor programs for convicted criminals.
In early 2023, Jonathan Archille, 29, was one of dozens incarcerated in Louisiana to share their experience with The Washington Post. Archille told reporters that he was treated like a slave and even had officers explicitly tell him that he was a slave.