Frequently Asked Questions
What is Oregon Measure 112?
Measure 112 is a ballot measure to remove language from the Oregon Constitution that allows for slavery and involuntary servitude as a form of punishment for a crime. Voting YES by November 8th will close this “slavery loophole” to ensure our state’s most important document better reflects our values as Oregonians – and as people.
Article 1 Section 34 of the Oregon Constitution currently says, “There shall be neither slavery, nor involuntary servitude in the State, otherwise than as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.”
Voting YES on Measure 112 will remove the last 15 words that make an exception for slavery and involuntary servitude as punishment for a crime, like this: “There shall be neither slavery, nor involuntary servitude in the State,
otherwise than as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.“
Additionally, to clarify that removing this language will not impact current work and rehabilitation programs, an additional paragraph* will be added: “Upon conviction of a crime, an Oregon court or a probation or parole agency may order the convicted person to engage in education, counseling, treatment, community service or other alternatives to incarceration, as part of sentencing for the crime, in accordance with programs that have been in place historically or that may be developed in the future, to provide accountability, reformation, protection of society or rehabilitation.”
*Two notes about this section:
1) This section does not change current sentencing laws; this simply codifies current practice.
2) The 1981 Legislature passed a bill that authorizes community service as a condition of probation only if the defendants consent to community service.
Measure 112 will appear in your ballot like this:
Amends Constitution: Removes language allowing slavery and involuntary servitude as punishment for crime.
No. Measure 112 will maintain current work programs, community service, training, and other rehabilitation programs for those serving time in Oregon prisons or on parole. It also will not impact compensation for work done by people in custody. This measure simply removes a dehumanizing relic from our state constitution without impacting these programs.
Not at all! Both “red” states and “blue” states have voted overwhelmingly to remove similar language from their state constitutions, including Colorado, Utah, and Nebraska. Here in Oregon, an overwhelming and bipartisan majority of Oregon legislators voted to refer Measure 112 to the ballot this November.
No matter your political views, we all agree that slavery for any reason is morally wrong. Now it’s Oregon’s turn to make sure our state’s most important document reflects our values.
We are one of only 10 states that still has this dehumanizing language in their constitution. Colorado, Utah, Nebraska, and Rhode Island have already rid their constitutions of “slavery loophole” language. This November, five states are voting to finally remove “slavery loophole” language from their constitutions: Oregon, Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Vermont. This is our chance to send a positive message to the rest of the country: Oregonians believe slavery for any reason is morally wrong.
At the national level, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley and Georgia Congresswoman Nikema Williams are leading the charge to amend the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery but also includes an exception for punishment for a crime.
The Oregon Constitution is our state’s most important document, and it is a reflection of our state’s values. Oregonians in 2022 believe slavery for any reason is wrong. This simple change will ensure this document that still governs us today better reflects our modern values.
Many people are surprised to learn that the Oregon Constitution allows slavery and involuntary servitude as punishment for a crime. This language was common in the founding documents of new states and territories in the late 1700’s and 1800’s and reflects permissive attitudes toward slavery by political leaders at that time.
“Slavery loophole” language enabled states and localities, including former Confederate states, to create “Black Code” laws that led to the arrest and re-enslavement of many Black people for vaguely worded minor offenses such as vagrancy, loitering, and malicious mischief. The dark, dehumanizing legacy of exploiting loopholes for racism has continued through Jim Crow laws, mass incarceration, and more.
Oregonians of all backgrounds feel very differently about slavery in 2022 than they did in 1857 when the Oregon Constitution was adopted. This document still governs us today, and we all deserve to have our modern values reflected in it and ensure such loopholes can never be exploited again. Voting YES on Measure 112 will remove dehumanizing “slavery loophole” language from the Oregon Constitution to better reflect our values.