Here’s an interesting question to toss around. What’s the definition of being a “slave” as it’s understood in the American legal system? And specific to the report we’re about to discuss, what is the difference between a “slave” and an “employee” if you are performing work over your objections and being (very poorly) paid for it? That’s the point that four colorado prison system inmates (one former, three current) are attempting to have resolved in a lawsuit they’ve filed against the Governor, the state prison system and a private company that operates for-profit prisons. The men claim that they are being paid “slave wages” for jobs they are forced to do while under confinement and that flies in the face of the state constitution. (CBS Denver)
Saying they are being used as “slave labor” by the Colorado prison system, three current and one former inmate have filed a lawsuit against Gov. Jared Polis, the state prison system and a private prison operator. They are asking that inmates be paid minimum wage, be considered state employees and receive the same benefits as state workers like paid holidays and vacations, and paid sick leave and medical benefits.
“I had a kitchen job which was like going to hell every day”, said Adelbert “Jack” Bassford, who did time in Colorado prisons for white collar crime and was released last year.
He said he was paid .10 cents per hour to sweep kitchen floors, “I resented it every day.”
Bassford along with current inmates Steven Craig Christopher, Cesar Pasillas- Sanchez and Norman Vasquez, filed the lawsuit in Denver district court earlier this month with attorney Tom Carberry.
At the heart of the issue is a 2018 amendment to the state constitution regarding slavery. It formerly read, “There shall never be in this state either slavery or involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for a crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” Following the change, the phrase beginning with “except as punishment…” was removed.