The following letter was submitted to the California Senate Public Safety Committee:on May 29, 2022.
This constitutional amendment is quite short but would be devastating to the penal system and to criminal justice in California. ACA 3 simply removes the phrase “except to punish crime” from the state constitution, “SECTION 6. Slavery is prohibited. Involuntary servitude is prohibited except to punish crime.” In removing those few words, the entire meaning is turned on its head. The new constitution would read, “Slavery and involuntary servitude are prohibited.”
Sounds innocent enough until the origin of this legislation is discovered. Then the purpose becomes quite clear. On the website of the Communist Party USA, one can find this article - https://www.cpusa.org/article/unify-the-oppressed-by-organizing-incarcerated-workers/ - defining the goal as unionizing inmates in prison. Unions strive to set working conditions, work rules, wages, and benefits. No longer would prisoners be required to clean their rooms, work in the kitchen, etc., unless they were paid minimum wage at staggering costs to county jails and state prisons. And no longer would the inmates be offered the opportunity to volunteer for prison industry programs.
The presumed target of this effort is to demand wages for work done in the prison industry programs for prison and jail populations that exist in many states. In California the program is called CalPIA - California Prison Industry Authority, established by the legislature. The program links volunteer inmates with work done for the benefit of an outside business. Granted, the pay is low, but the mission of CalPIA is to provide meaningful work and to reduce recidivism with the benefit that the skills obtained can provide for jobs once released. Their website cites successful transition stories thanks to the opportunities provided through CalPIA that would quickly disappear if ACA 3 were passed.
As stated in the June 30, 2021 Assembly Committee on Appropriations legislative report, “CDCR estimates costs possibly in the billions of dollars annually if this proposed change is approved by the voters and CDCR and CalPIA are required to pay minimum wage for inmate work.”
To pursue ACA 3 to the proposition phase for voter approval without any reference to the negative fiscal and operational aspects of an otherwise seemingly benign, feel good California Constitutional language change is a deceitful and unethical act. California citizens deserve full disclosure of propositions requiring their approval.
For these reasons, we strongly oppose ACA 3.
The East Valley Republican Women Patriots
La Quinta, California