Until yesterday, the Tennessee Constitution included the following statement: "Slavery and involuntary servitude are forever prohibited in this state – except as punishment for a person who has been duly convicted of crime." A ballot measure has now passed with nearly 80% of the votes amending that section to read: "Slavery and involuntary servitude are forever prohibited. Nothing in this section shall prohibit an inmate from working when the inmate has been duly convicted of a crime."
Yes, in 1865 the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution mostly abolished slavery in the country, but it still allows it as a "punishment for crime." From CBS News:
State Senator Raumesh Akbari said in an interview with Fox Nashville last year that the amendment to the state's constitution would close that loophole.
A bipartisan group of legislators supported the "Vote Yes on 3" campaign, which urged voters to adopt the ballot measure. "Words matter and in the constitution, there is still a resemblance of slavery leftover," Democratic State Rep. Joe Townes said in a bipartisan campaign ad with Republican Rep. Jeremy Faison.
"It's important that we do away with all thoughts of slavery in our constitution," Faison said.