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Illustration of two incarcerated men scubbing a prison floor
Illustration by Scotty Scott

The United States hasn’t allowed involuntary servitude to take place since abolishing slavery in 1865. But there is one important exception: States can still use it as a means of punishment for crime.

That legal caveat is something more than a dozen states exploit to this day, including California, where I’m incarcerated. Here, I work for 8 cents to 37 cents per hour.

On top of the tiny money we make working in prisons, most inmates also must pay restitution for their crimes. “The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) automatically collects 50% of prison wages or other money deposited into your trust account to pay your restitution,” according to the CDCR website.

We claim to have officially abolished slavery more than a century ago, but the practice has continued. It’s time for us to make our promise to end slavery more complete.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Global Forum Online has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Scotty Scott is an artist incarcerated in California.