Anti Recidivism Coalition staff with Pine Grove Fire Camp incarcerated youth training as firefighters in preparation for re-entry.
Over 42,000 incarcerated people (including 3,384 helping California fight wildfires) are employed as full-time workers by the California Prison Industry Authority (CALPIA), many of which make only $0.08 cents per hour for their labor.
Who reaps the benefit of their hard work? California. State agencies are CALPIA’s biggest customer; they rely on prison labor to put out deadly wildfires, to furnish our state capitol, and ironically, to maintain and repair prisons.
The State of California both relies on and profits off of incarcerated workers, yet people working while under the California Department of Corrections (CDCR)’s care are capitalized on for their labor. What’s worse – after serving their time, many formerly incarcerated workers return home to face the sudden demands of everyday life, as well as the countless barriers associated with reentry. In addition to these impositions, people returning home also face substantial financial obligations, including years of unpaid child support, fines and fees associated with the criminal justice system, and restitution. After having served one’s sentence and dedicating years to full-time employment, a formerly incarcerated worker should walk out of prison financially equipped to reintegrate into society.
Yet a Brookings Institution study found that in the first year of post-release, only 55% of formerly incarcerated people have any reported earnings. The research found that those with jobs in the first year following their incarceration earned a median of only $10,090 – with only 20% earning more than $15,000.
Without paying incarcerated workers a livable wage, the State of California is exploiting their own laborers and setting them up for failure after prison – in addition to punishing incarcerated laborers’ financially dependent families. By signing this petition, you can advocate for the state of California to pay its incarcerated workers a livable wage by demanding dignity for incarcerated workers.