Tuesday, February 28, 2006



Slave Labour

Great. Our prisons are now renting their inmates out as fruitpickers, with the prisoners being paid as little as 20c/hour. Now, the ultimate employer isn't paying that - they're paying Corrections the minimum wage - and all the prisoners are "volunteers", but given the implicit coercion involved in the prison system, this amounts to little more than slave labour.

I first looked into this a couple of years ago, when prisoners were manufacturing pre-fabricated components for the construction industry. There at least the work scheme was providing training so that prisoners could better find work when they were eventually released. But it still paid well below the minimum wage, with no employment contract, no effective means of dispute resolution, and no enforceable workplace safety standards. In this case, there's not even any training benefit: prisoners are being used to plug a local labour shortage and provide cheap labour to orchardists. Given that this is a labour shortage, they are likely not displacing other workers - but they are depressing wages. Is that really what our prisons are for?

Prisons should provide employment, as both training and giving prisoners something to do other than stare at the walls of their cell all day. But such work should be voluntary, subject to normal employment standards, and any benefits should flow directly to prisoners, with any deductions being made transparently. The current system simply encourages prisons to rent out their inmates as forced labour to supplement their budgets - something we should not be tolerating in a civilised society.

4 comments:

something we should not be tolerating in a civilised society.


I was always under the impression that convicted and incarcerated criminals formed, by their own free choice, an UNcivilised society.

So what's ya problem?

Posted by Rick : 2/28/2006 03:24:00 PM

Can't really see a problem with this - if you don't want to be treated like this stay out of prison.

Only a problem if thy are taking jobs from other (non-prison) people

Posted by SB : 2/28/2006 03:56:00 PM

No, I agree with Idiot. Much of the cheap goods out of China is made by prison slave labour, Xmas lights for instance. Their work conditions are appalling.

Now sure, here we don't have political prisoners as in China, but all citizens should be covered by labour laws and no work should be coercive.

Posted by muerk : 2/28/2006 05:41:00 PM

Maybe they should just pay the prisoners what they are worth and give them a choice of job.

Personally if i was in prison I might be happy to work for less than minimum wage if htat was the only thing available - better than doing nothing. It would also be a good sort of rehabilitation much better than leaving me in a grey cell somwhere with "big bubba".

The fact that it makes money unlike lets say throwing you in a pink room or talking to the psychiatrist shouldn't prevent it from being an option (although the prison could design it intentionally so it doesnt make money (for example burying the fruit that the prisoners pick).

problem arises if you get beaten or raped or somthing for not working hard enough (not that that won't be exactly what will be happening in your cell via big bubba anyway).

Posted by Genius : 2/28/2006 06:49:00 PM