Slavery in Utah? Yes, it’s still legal

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Did you know a form of slavery is still legal in Utah? It’s legal as a form of punishment and the NAACP Salt Lake Branch wants it removed.

“It’s something that should be done immediately,” Jeanetta Williams, president of the NAACP Salt Lake Branch told ABC4 News.

Article I, Section 21 of the Utah Constitution reads that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within this State.”

Williams says the wording within the article needs to be changed.

“What they’re trying to get around is saying slavery is not OK but then saying ‘except.’ That right there is very troubling.”

This actually mirrors the language of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Constitution prohibits slavery but contains a similar exemption for people convicted of crimes. 

ABC4’s Brittany Johnson asked Williams if the way Utah’s Constitution is worded now could mean that convicted criminals can be forced to work in prison without pay?

“You can’t say, ‘oh, unless, they committed a crime.’ Well, prison is not a form of slavery and it shouldn’t be a form of slavery,” answered Williams.

Williams says the first step in getting this removed from the state’s constitution is to raise awareness about the issue. After that, the NAACP will work with a state lawmakers to introduce a bill during the upcoming legislative session to abolish slavery as a form of punishment.

The legislative session starts in January.

This is a story that ABC4’s Brittany Johnson has been digging into. She will continue to follow the story and the NAACP’s quest to get this amendment changed.

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 Glen is honored to be delivering the news of the day every weeknight at 5, 6, and 10 in his home state. He is an award-winning veteran journalist, who joined the ABC4 News team as a weekend anchor in June 2013. Over the years, he held various positions at the station as he worked his way up to the main anchor chair. He also serves as our Senior Political Correspondent and hosts Inside Utah Politics, which airs every Sunday. The Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has recognized Glen as the best government and military television reporter in the state. Before returning home to Utah, he spent 11 1/2 years developing his journalism skills in other states. He held various on-air and management positions at KPVI in Pocatello, Idaho, WGBA in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and KKCO in Grand Junction, Colorado during that time. Read More...