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SCR-69 Prisoners: wages.(2019-2020)

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Amended  IN  Senate  January 23, 2020


Senate Concurrent Resolution
No. 69

Introduced by Senator Bradford

August 14, 2019

Relative to prisoner compensation.


SCR 69, as amended, Bradford. Prisoners: wages.
This measure would express the Legislature’s support for fair and just wages for incarcerated persons working for the Prison Industry Authority, the Division of Juvenile Facilities, and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Fiscal Committee: YES  

WHEREAS, This country has long recognized the value of human labor and the importance of fair wages. California has demonstrated this recognition through its ongoing commitment to offering quality pay careers for Californians through enactments like the California Equal Pay Act; and
WHEREAS, The dignity of every person is inherent, and it is incumbent on the state to protect the dignity of all its citizens; and
WHEREAS, Fair and just wages are intrinsically tied to human dignity; and
WHEREAS, The factors of disparities within imprisonment are partially a result of disproportionate social factors in African American and Latinx communities that are associated primarily with poverty, employment, housing, and family differences; and
WHEREAS, The poverty rate is roughly 25 percent for both African American and Latinx communities, compared to 9 percent for White American communities; and
WHEREAS, The median income for African American and Latinx communities is roughly $20,000 less than the median income for White American communities; and
WHEREAS, African American and Latinx adults are, respectively, 5.9 and 3.1 times more likely to be incarcerated than White adults; and
WHEREAS, The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) found that in 2015, over 71 percent of prisoners were men of color. More specifically, 42 percent were Latinx and 29 percent were African American; and
WHEREAS, In 2017, African American women were incarcerated at 5.7 times the rate of White women and Latinx women were incarcerated at 1.3 times the rate of White women; and
WHEREAS, The State of California currently incarcerates 126,428 people in state prisons and people in prison are routinely required to work for little or no compensation; and
WHEREAS, Roughly 42,897 people in prison work up to full time, earning anywhere from $0.08 to $1.00 per hour to $3.90 per day in jobs ranging from electricians, carpenters, cooks, orderlies, fire conservation crew members, braille transcribers, silk screen printers, and many other integral work positions; and
WHEREAS, In 1982, California established the Prison Industry Authority (CALPIA) as a self-supporting business that provides work assignments for approximately 7,000 incarcerated people. CALPIA manages over 100 manufacturing, service, and consumable operations in all 34 CDCR institutions throughout California; and
WHEREAS, The goods and services produced by CALPIA are sold predominantly to California state agencies, as well as to other government entities; and
WHEREAS, CALPIA generates a gross profit of approximately $60 million annually and manufactures items from road signs and clothing to cleaning products and the furniture used in nearly every room at the State Capitol; and
WHEREAS, Seven thousand people in prison work up to full time for CALPIA and nearly 1,175 participate in the Inmate Ward Labor program (IWL) and can earn $0.30 to $0.95 per hour; and
WHEREAS, As of February 20, 2019, 3,384 people in prison work up to full time for the CDCR Conservation Camp program and earn $1.45 to $3.90 per day in jobs protecting people and property from fire. When working as emergency firefighters, they in emergency situations, conservation crew members are compensated $1 per hour; and
WHEREAS, Inflation continues to increase, yet the pay scale for those who are incarcerated continues to remain relatively low and does not reflect the inflation increase; and
WHEREAS, As an example, the oldest written documentation of the pay schedule for those incarcerated and working in conservation camps is from the CDCR’s Department Operations Manual published on January 10, 1990, which is identical to the current pay schedule; and
WHEREAS, Fifty-five percent of a person’s wages earned in prison are garnished to pay restitution, and low wages mean payments to victims are also low; and
WHEREAS, Many people in prison have families, and low wages mean they are less able to help with general family financial needs, child support, or the added costs of communication and travel for families who have a loved one in prison; and
WHEREAS, Research found that parents, upon entering prison, on average owed $10,543 in child support obligations. Due to a lack of income or full-time employment opportunities, the majority of parents have no means of paying child support debt while in prison, and they also struggle to pay it after their release; and
WHEREAS, Fifty-two percent of people in state prisons are parents of minors. African American children are 7.5 times, and Latinx children 2.6 times, more likely than White children to have a parent in prison. There are 1.7 million children in the United States that have an incarcerated parent; and
WHEREAS, Returning members of society face many challenges upon reentry, including housing insecurity and difficulty finding and keeping employment; and
WHEREAS, Financial distress continues well after release from prison because of the difficulties one faces in finding a job, because having a criminal record makes the pathway to employment extremely difficult for those who are formerly incarcerated; and
WHEREAS, A Brookings Institution study found that in the first year of postrelease, only 55 percent of formerly incarcerated people have any reported earnings. The research found that those with jobs in the first year earned a median of $10,090 and only 20 percent earned more than $15,000; and
WHEREAS, The inability to earn or save money puts heavy burdens on families once a person is released. According to the study, 66 percent of formerly incarcerated people relied on family and friends as their primary source of financial support upon release; and
WHEREAS, Estimates indicate formerly incarcerated people owe as much as 60 percent of their income to criminal justice debt. According to one source, up to 85 percent of people released from prison owe some form of criminal justice debt, compared to 25 percent in 1991; and
WHEREAS, People released from prison receive $200 in “gate money” and typically leave prison with little to no financial support, putting them at risk for financial insecurity, hunger, and homelessness; and
WHEREAS, Formerly incarcerated people are almost 10 times more likely to be homeless than the general public; and
WHEREAS, The high cost of living in California, particularly in Los Angeles where 32 percent of people return to following incarceration, can lead to adverse outcomes for people released from prison; and
WHEREAS, People in prison who earn a fair and just wage can contribute to the growth of the economy and to public safety. These contributions to their families, taxes, restitution, and themselves will support the rehabilitative mandate of CDCR and ultimately save the state money by reducing the number of times people reoffend, the number of children in need of social services, and the likelihood of people seeking out governmental assistance; and
WHEREAS, State law empowers CDCR to fix the daily wage rate for persons incarcerated in state prison by regulation, and empowers CALPIA to adopt a compensation schedule for inmate employees based on quantity and quality of work performed but not more than one-half the state minimum wage; and
WHEREAS, State law also empowers a county to provide for the payment of wages to juvenile wards, and allows CDCR to pay juvenile wards for work related to the construction, renovation, or repair of juvenile justice facilities; and
WHEREAS, State law should be amended to address the unfair wage compensation and to provide incarcerated persons with base work protections by redefining prison labor as legal employment; now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the Senate of the State of California, the Assembly thereof concurring, That the Legislature supports fair and just wages for incarcerated persons working for the Prison Industry Authority, the Division of Juvenile Facilities, and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation; and be it further
Resolved, That the Secretary of the Senate transmit copies of this resolution to the author for appropriate distribution.