[Fox News] California prison system looks to increase wages for incarcerated workers as concern grows over small pay

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The California prison system is floating plans to nearly double the hourly wage for incarcerated workers for the first time in 30 years. 

Prisoners’ wages generally range from 8 to 37 cents an hour, depending on the skill level required for the job, but the proposal, put forth by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, would double the wage range from 16 to 74 cents an hour, the Star Beacon reported

However, many prison activists believe the wages aren’t enough since it would only increase daily pay by just a few dollars. But, in 2022, the Corrections Department told lawmakers that it would cost billions of dollars to pay prisoners minimum wage. 

Although, department spokesperson Tessa Outhyse said in an email to the Star Beacon that the Corrections Department’s current plan to raise wages would not require additional funding from the state budget because hours would be reduced in tandem with increased wages. 

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Proponents argue higher wages will have several benefits, such as making it easier for inmates to pay back the money they owe for damage from their crimes as 55% of inmates’ wages go towards restitution costs, according to the Department of Corrections.

“Increased pay will provide a stronger incentive for incarcerated people to accept and retain jobs,” Outhyse said. “New wages will also help workers meet restitution payments for crime victims and save more money in preparation for release.”

Fox News Digital reached out to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for comment. This article will be updated with any reply. 

The proposal also calls for the elimination of all unpaid work assignments and reducing hours for most prison workers from full-time to half-time jobs amid debate about prison labor, with many activists arguing forced labor serves as a form of criminal punishment, the Star Beacon reported. 

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Outhyse said approximately 40% of California’s 96,000 prisoners are employed doing laundry, janitorial work, clerking and construction while they serve out their sentences. 

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Democratic state Senator Steven Bradford said it has been “increasingly difficult for incarcerated people just to provide for their basic needs in prison, be it deodorant or toothpaste, to help pay down their restitution that is owed to victims, helping their families or even staying in contact with their families using the phone.”

Bradford is also a member of California’s Reparations Task Force, which proposed fair market value for jail and prison labor, the Los Angeles Times reported. State lawmakers also considered a measure called the “End Slavery in California Act” that would get rid of a provision in California’s Constitution that permits involuntary servitude as punishment for crime. 

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