The United States outlawed slavery over 150 years ago, but an exception was made in the case of punishment for a crime for which a person was duly convicted. The Colorado Constitution mirrors this language.
However, a measure on the upcoming ballot, Amendment A, seeks to remove the exemption, making slavery and involuntary servitude illegal under all circumstances.
Black's Law Dictionary defines slavery as a situation in which one person has absolute power over the life, fortune and liberty of another person. Involuntary servitude, as defined by the U.S. Supreme Court, is a condition of servitude in which a person is forced to work for another person by the use or threat of physical restraint or physical injury, or by the use or threat of coercion through law or the legal process.
Proponents of Amendment A include Abolish Slavery Colorado, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado. They say it's important to remove the exception for moral and ethical reasons.
Colorado had a similar measure, Amendment T, on the ballot in 2016, which narrowly failed with 50 percent of voters against the change. Supporters say that they believe that was due to confusing ballot language.
Opponents say that Amendment A is redundant and unnecessary.
Currently, the state pays its prisoners 33 cents to $2.49 per day depending on the assignment. At least four states, Alabama, Arkansas, Texas and Georgia, don't pay their inmates at all.
Though the measure would not have a direct impact on prison reform, supporters say the change reflects the state's values of freedom and equality and is important symbolically.