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California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Considers Wage Increase for Inmates After 30 Years

30 Nov 2023, Jail News, by

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation proposes a wage increase, potentially doubling the hourly pay range.

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Considers Wage Increase for Inmates After 30 Years - Inmate Lookup

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDRC) is contemplating a significant change that could nearly double the hourly wages for incarcerated workers, marking the first adjustment in three decades.

The proposed wage range, as put forth by CDRC, is set to increase from the current 8 to 37 cents per hour to a new range of 16 to 74 cents per hour, according to a report by the Star Beacon.

However, despite the potential increase, many prison activists argue that the proposed wages remain insufficient. Critics point out that the adjustment might only result in a minimal daily pay increase for inmates. In 2022, the Corrections Department conveyed to lawmakers that paying prisoners the minimum wage would entail considerable spending, reaching billions of dollars.

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesperson Tessa Outhyse, in an email to the Star Beacon, explained that the current plan to raise wages wouldn’t demand additional funding from the state budget. The rationale is that hours would be reduced concurrently with the proposed wage hike.

Advocates of higher wages argue that they could bring several benefits. One significant aspect is easing the process for inmates to repay the money owed for damages caused by their crimes. According to the Department of Corrections, over half of inmates’ wages currently contribute to restitution costs.

Outhyse emphasized that increased pay could serve as a stronger motivation for incarcerated individuals to accept and stay on the job. The new wages could also assist the inmate workers in meeting restitution payments for crime victims and, at the same time, enable them to save more money in preparation for release.

Amidst the discussion surrounding prison labor, wherein many activists contend that forced labor constitutes a kind of criminal punishment, the proposal also calls for the abolition of all unpaid work assignments and a reduction in hours for the majority of prison workers from full-time to half-time jobs, as reported by the Star Beacon.

According to Outhyse, over 40% of California’s 96,000 prisoners work as clerks, launderers, janitors, or construction workers as they serve their sentences.

Democratic state Senator Steven Bradford said that incarcerated individuals are finding it increasingly difficult to meet their basic needs in prison, such as obtaining personal hygiene items, making restitution payments to victims, supporting their families, or maintaining communication with their families via phone.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Reparations Task Force of California, of which Bradford is a member, proposed a fair market value for jail and prison labor. The state lawmakers also considered a measure called the “End Slavery in California Act” that would eliminate a provision in California’s Constitution allowing involuntary labor as a consequence of criminal offenses.