Razorwire Media

Consulting Entrepreneuship Paralegal

Booker and Others Challenge Slave Labor In Prisons

Senate Probe Over “slave labor” in Federal Bureau of Prisons Facilities

For many of the Bureau of Prisons nearly 160,000 federal inmates having a job is not an option. The Bureau of Prisons operates several “work camps” and “work compounds” across the country where inmates who are capable of having jobs, but refuse to work, are disciplined. Some even moved to the shu and receiving sanctions for “not following a direct order”.

Federal Prison jobs can include anything from preparing meals to cleaning toilets and of course working for Federal Prison Industries, otherwise known as “Unicor”. In all prison positions inmates are earning an average between $.25 cents per hour and a dollar per hour. There are some accelerated Unicor programs that can pay $3 an hour for overtime. Even $3 an hour is a far cry from today’s federal minimum wage and even further from state minimum wage in California and others.

Last week in a Senate hearing on prison labor, Senator Cory Booker from New Jersey, who sits on the Judiciary committee and has been a staunch supported of prison reform, spoke out about prison labor.

“Our prisons should reflect the best of who we are, they should reflect our values,” the New Jersey Democrat said. “And they should, in my strong opinion, be places that are not just for punishment, but for rehabilitation and for creating roads of redemption.”

Booker said that the prison system would be better served expanding educational and vocational programs that help actually rehabilitate inmates and prepare them for their futures in the free world.

Of course Tom Cotton was there to oppose everything Booker said. “idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” Yahoo reports that Cotton believes this slave labor is a way for inmate to give back to society. In actuality, an inmate honing and developing real life skills, earning their GED or planning for a world of entrepreneurship better enables them to give back to society in the long run.

While Unicor wasn’t named specifically, the Bureau of Prisons lives off Federal Prison Industries. FPI/Unicor has factories all over the BOP that employee thousands of inmates to do everything from making furniture to doing laundry. Unicor pays these inmates very low wages and often marks up their products and services. Their only client is the Federal Government.

While no real legislation has been prepared at this point it’s part of a much bigger discussion on continuing prison reform. That reform could include a follow up to the First Step Act of 2018 which Booker was one of several strong advocates for.

Source: Yahoo, Sen. Cory Booker