SEATTLE - Christal Wood went to law school at the University of Washington hoping to forge a better future for her and her young daughter, but her dreams of becoming an attorney have taken a wrong turn. While studying for the bar exam, Wood has had to go on welfare to pay the bills. She ended up homeless, currently staying on friends' couches.
In order to receive her modest $453 monthly benefit, Wood enrolled in the state's Work First program. Work First requires welfare recipients to either show up to a program office and look for a job 32 hours a week, or work at an internship at a non-profit for the same amount of time.
Wood found an internship at a law office where she hoped to get a foot in the door and eventually a job. The problem is that like most law offices, hers was not a non-profit.
Wood says the government is now threatening to cut her monthly benefit by 40-percent. So, while she's on welfare, Wood is putting her legal skills to work -- suing the state for a violation of her constitutional right against "involuntary servitude."
The 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states, "Neither slavery, nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime ... shall exist within the United States."
Wood says she is being forced to work by the state an is being denied the opportunity to pursue her dream. A hearing on the suit is scheduled for next year in King County Superior Court.