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Captive Labor-Exploitation of Incarcerated Workers, 2022

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ACLU AND GHRC RESEARCH REPORT

Captive Labor
Exploitation of Incarcerated Workers

Captive Labor

1

ACLU AND GHRC RESEARCH REPORT		

Captive Labor
Exploitation of Incarcerated Workers

~ THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO

W

THE LAW SCHOOL

Global Human Rights Clinic

© 2022 AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION
AND THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO LAW
SCHOOL GLOBAL HUMAN RIGHTS CLINIC

Contents
Executive Summary. . .................................................................................................................. 5
Research Methodology.............................................................................................................. 21
Understanding Prison Labor.................................................................................................. 23
Prison Labor by the Numbers............................................................................................ 24
History of Incarcerated Labor in the United States...................................................... 25
Types of Prison Labor......................................................................................................... 27
Penal Plantations.. ..................................................................................................................... 34
Who Benefits from Prison Labor............................................................................................ 37
The Prison System............................................................................................................... 37
State, Local, and Federal Governments........................................................................... 39
The Private Sector.. ............................................................................................................... 41
Bound to Work........................................................................................................................... 47
Involuntary Labor in Confinement.. .................................................................................. 48
Arbitrary and Discriminatory Allocation of Work Assignments................................ 50
Paid in Pennies. . ......................................................................................................................... 55
The Wages Paid to Incarcerated Workers in Each State.............................................. 56
Garnishing Already Low Wages........................................................................................ 57
Excluded from Earning into the Social Safety Net........................................................ 60
Dangerous and Degrading........................................................................................................ 61
Excluded from Basic Workplace Protections. . ................................................................. 61
Dangerous Work Conditions and Preventable Injuries.. ............................................... 62
Failure to Train..................................................................................................................... 65
Degrading Conditions.......................................................................................................... 66
I nsurmountable Barriers to Redress and Accountability When Rights
Are Violated........................................................................................................................... 67

Prison Labor During COVID-19. . ............................................................................................ 69
Captive Market. . ......................................................................................................................... 72
Requiring Self-Payment for Basic Necessities................................................................ 73
No Path Forward. . ...................................................................................................................... 76
Dead-End Jobs....................................................................................................................... 77
Licensing Restrictions. . ....................................................................................................... 79
Background Checks and Discrimination........................................................................ 80
How Prison Labor in the U.S. Violates Human Rights.. ...................................................... 82
Recommendations.. ................................................................................................................... 85
Acknowledgments...................................................................................................................... 91
Appendix..................................................................................................................................... 94
Table A: Number of Incarcerated Workers by State...................................................... 94
Table B : The Wages Paid to Incarcerated Workers in Each State and in
Federal Prisons...................................................................................................................... 97
Table C: Calculated Average and Hourly Wages Paid to Incarcerated Workers....... 101
Endnotes................................................................................................................................... 104

Executive Summary
Our nation incarcerates over 1.2 million people in state and federal prisons, and two out of
three of these incarcerated people are also workers. In most instances, the jobs these people
in prison have look similar to those of millions of people working on the outside: They
work as cooks, dishwashers, janitors, groundskeepers, barbers, painters, or plumbers;
in laundries, kitchens, factories, and hospitals. They provide vital public services such
as repairing roads, fighting wildfires, or clearing debris after hurricanes. They washed
hospital laundry and worked in mortuary services at the height of the pandemic. They
manufacture products like office furniture, mattresses, license plates, dentures, glasses,
traffic signs, athletic equipment, and uniforms. They cultivate and harvest crops, work as
welders and carpenters, and work in meat and poultry processing plants.

From the moment they enter the prison gates, they lose
the right to refuse to work. This is because the 13th
Amendment to the United States Constitution, which
generally protects against slavery and involuntary
servitude, explicitly excludes from its reach those
held in confinement due to a criminal conviction.1
More than 76 percent of incarcerated workers report
that they are required to work or face additional
punishment such as solitary confinement, denial
of opportunities to reduce their sentence, and loss
of family visitation, or the inability to pay for basic
life necessities like bath soap.2 They have no right
to choose what type of work they do and are subject
to arbitrary, discriminatory, and punitive decisions

Photo © Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

But there are two crucial differences:
Incarcerated workers are under the
complete control of their employers, and
they have been stripped of even the
most minimal protections against labor
exploitation and abuse.

An incarcerated janitor cleans windows in an office at the California
Correctional Center in Susanville, California.

Captive Labor

5

by the prison administrators who select their work
assignments.3
U.S. law also explicitly excludes incarcerated workers
from the most universally recognized workplace
protections. Incarcerated workers are not covered
by minimum wage laws or overtime protection, are
not afforded the right to unionize, and are denied
workplace safety guarantees.

Incarcerated workers
produce more than $2
billion a year in goods
and commodities and
over $9 billion a year
in services for the
maintenance of the
prisons where they are
warehoused.
Workers are assigned hazardous work in unsafe
conditions without the standard training or
protective gear provided in workplaces outside
prisons.
Nobody expects prison labor to be highly
remunerative. But incarcerated workers typically
earn little to no pay at all, with many making just
pennies an hour. It is rare that a job pays more than
a dollar an hour—even the incarcerated firefighters
braving the flames that rage across California’s
forests and hillsides year after year are compensated
at $1 an hour.4 Even so, many consider themselves
lucky to receive these low wages. That is because, in
seven states, incarcerated individuals are forced to
work but are paid nothing at all for most jobs.

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ACLU Research Report

At the same time, incarcerated workers produce
real value for state prisons and state governments,
the system’s primary beneficiaries. Nationally,
incarcerated workers produce more than $2 billion
a year in goods and commodities and over $9 billion
a year in services for the maintenance of the prisons
where they are warehoused. Even though prison
labor is not what is driving mass incarceration in
the United States, incarcerated workers’ labor does
partially offset the staggering costs of our country’s
bloated prison system.
The majority of incarcerated people wish to be
productive while in prison. They want, and often
need, to earn money to send home to loved ones and
pay for basic necessities while incarcerated. They
want to acquire skills useful for employment after
their release. Studies show that people who had some
savings when they leave prison and got jobs after
their release were less likely to recidivate than those
who did not. We all have an interest in prison work
being something beyond pure punitive exploitation.
Yet despite the potential for prison labor to facilitate
rehabilitation, the existing system very often offers
nothing beyond exploitation.
Drawing on responses to open records requests,
analysis of state and federal laws and regulations,
interviews, and written questionnaires completed
by incarcerated workers, this report discusses
at length the features of state and federal prison
labor systems that result in systemic exploitation
and abuse. This report also recommends concrete
steps to make prison systems treat incarcerated
workers with dignity and respect for their human
rights. Though this report centers on the gratuitously
harsh conditions of contemporary prison labor, it
is embedded in larger conversations about racism,
sexism, the U.S. criminal legal system, the 13th
Amendment, and the ultimate morality of this
country’s vast network of prisons, jails, and detention
facilities.

Summary of Research
Methods

states replied to the request with varying levels of
responsiveness; 27 states provided no information.5

This report relies on data from desk research,
responses to open records requests, and analysis
of existing government data sources. To provide
more in-depth understanding, researchers used
a case study approach in three states consisting
of questionnaires of incarcerated people and
interviews of key stakeholders and experts.

DOJ survey analysis. The authors conducted
descriptive analyses on work assignments from
a national survey of incarcerated adults in
correctional facilities conducted by the Department
of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics in 2016 and
published in September 2021.6 The sample for this
report was limited to those incarcerated in federal or
state institutions, resulting in a sample of 23,921.

Desk research and policy analysis. Researchers
conducted an extensive search and examination
of existing research, including academic papers,
government reports, historical studies, and
journalistic investigations. They reviewed and
analyzed legal standards, policy documents,
legislation, and regulations from domestic and
international sources.

Questionnaires of incarcerated workers in
three states. The authors conducted in-depth
primary investigations in three case-study states—
California, Illinois, and Louisiana. The authors
administered written questionnaires to randomly
selected individuals who were incarcerated in these
states (101 completed responses).

FOIAs. Researchers submitted Freedom of
Information Act (FOIA) requests to all 50 states
of the United States, as well as the Federal
Bureau of Prisons, seeking basic data on prison
labor programs and participants. Twenty-three

Interviews. The researchers also conducted
interviews with key stakeholders and experts
(78 interviews), including formerly incarcerated
individuals, representatives of advocacy
organizations, academics, and leaders of reentry
organizations. All questionnaire and interview
participants provided informed consent.

Photo © AP

Workers incarcerated at the
Mississippi State Penitentiary,
equipped with hoes, march
together to work in the cotton
fields of the Giant Cotton
Plantation in Parchman,
Mississippi, on Dec. 28, 1939.

Captive Labor

7

Understanding Prison Labor
The roots of modern-day labor programs can be
traced to the end of the Civil War and the passage of
the 13th Amendment that abolished slavery “except
as a punishment for crime.” States in the North and
the South turned to incarcerated labor as a means of
partially replacing chattel slavery and the free labor
force slavery provided. As state corrections systems
expanded, so too did the number of state-sponsored
incarcerated labor programs.
The exception clause in the 13th Amendment
disproportionately encouraged the criminalization
and effective re-enslavement of Black people during
the Jim Crow era, and the impacts of this systemic
racism persist to this day in the disproportionate
incarceration of Black and brown community
members.
Under today’s system of mass incarceration, nearly
2 million people are held in prisons and jails across
the United States.7 Almost all U.S. prisons have work
programs that employ incarcerated workers: Nearly
99 percent of public adult prisons and nearly 90
percent of private adult prisons have such programs.8
Of the more than 1.2 million people incarcerated in
state and federal prisons,9 over 65 percent work.10
Based on our analysis of data from the Department
of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics survey of

More than 80 percent
of incarcerated workers
in state and federal
prisons work in jobs
that serve to maintain
the prisons where they
are incarcerated.
— Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics

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ACLU Research Report

people in prisons conducted in 2016 and census of
people in prisons at yearend 2020—both of which
were published in late 2021 and are the most recent
available data—we estimate that at least 791,500
people incarcerated in U.S. prisons perform work
as part of their incarceration.11 Because of a lack
of available data, our estimate excludes people
confined in local jails or detention centers, juvenile
correctional facilities, and immigration detention
facilities.
Although the Federal Bureau of Prisons and nearly all
state departments of corrections refused to provide
data on the number and race of people in prisons with
work assignments, the incarcerated labor force is
undoubtedly disproportionately made up of people
who are Black, relative to their overall representation
in the general population in the community. Black
Americans are incarcerated in state prisons at nearly
five times the rate of whites, and in 12 states, more
than half the prison population is Black, despite
constituting 13 percent of the nationwide general
population.12
The vast majority of incarcerated workers perform
maintenance work, keeping the facilities that
confine them running. More than 80 percent of
incarcerated workers in state and federal prisons
who were surveyed by the Bureau of Justice Statistics
reported working in jobs that served to maintain
the prisons where they are incarcerated.13 About 30
percent of all incarcerated workers perform general
janitorial duties, nearly 20 percent work in food
preparation or carry out other kitchen duties, 8.5
percent provide grounds maintenance, 6.6 percent
work in maintenance or repair, 4.5 percent work in
laundry, and 14.1 percent perform essential services
by working in prison hospitals or infirmaries,
libraries, stockrooms, stores, and barber shops.14
State prison industries, also called “correctional
industries,” constitute a second type of prison
labor program that accounts for about 6.5 percent
of prison jobs. The number of incarcerated workers
employed in state prison industries programs has
been dropping in recent years, from 91,043 in 200815
to 51,569 in 2021.16 These are jobs in state-owned
corporations that produce goods, services, and

commodities sold to other government agencies.
Many states require all state agencies, political units,
and public institutions to purchase manufactured
goods, including furniture, cleaning supplies,
printed materials, and uniforms, from their state
correctional industries.17 Correctional industries
programs are not limited to manufacturing, as states
rely on incarcerated workers to provide a variety of
services, such as data entry, repairing state-owned
vehicles, and washing laundry for public hospitals
and universities. For example, people incarcerated
in New York and Oregon help staff the states’
Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) call centers,
fielding questions directed towards the department.18
A third category of prison labor is public works
assignments, sometimes referred to as “community
work crews,” for the benefit of state, municipal,
and local government agencies and occasionally
nonprofit organizations. States and municipalities
contract with state departments of corrections to
use the labor of incarcerated workers for a variety
of public works projects, mostly off prison grounds.
Incarcerated workers maintain cemeteries, school
grounds, fairgrounds, and public parks; do road work;
construct buildings; clean government offices; clean
up landfills and hazardous spills; undertake forestry
work in state-owned forests; and treat sewage.
Our research found that at least 41 state departments
of correction have public works programs that
employ incarcerated workers.19 About 44 percent
of public prisons nationwide assign incarcerated
workers to work on public works assignments outside
the prison.20 Public works constituted 8 percent of
all state prisoners’ work assignments at the time
of the previous Bureau of Justice Statistics survey
in 2004 (the most recent survey does not include
disaggregated data on incarcerated workers assigned
to public works).21
In Florida, for instance, about 3,500 unpaid
incarcerated workers work on state road crews
and “community work squads,” required to provide
labor for hundreds of state and municipal agencies
and dozens of state colleges and nonprofits.22 In
North Carolina, nearly 1,000 incarcerated workers
work on the state’s roads for the state Department

of Transportation and on manual labor jobs for
other state and local government agencies.23 In
Arizona, 1,083 incarcerated people work on public
works crews for the Department of Transportation
and other state, local, and county entities through
intergovernmental agreements with the corrections
department.24 These workers logged more than 1.8
million hours of work for the community during
fiscal year 2020.25 In Washington state, about 1,000
people work in similar community work programs
through which incarcerated workers work on stream
clean-up, land clearance, farming, and development
of parks and recreation areas.26 In Mississippi, each
state prison provides incarcerated workers’ labor for
free to local towns and municipalities.27 In Arkansas,
incarcerated people on “inmate work crews” logged
nearly half a million hours in regional maintenance
alone in 2020.28
Through such programs, incarcerated workers also
perform critical work preparing for and responding
to natural disasters, including sandbagging,
supporting evacuations, clearing debris, and
assisting with recovery and reconstruction after
hurricanes, tornadoes, mudslides, or floods.29 For
example, in Florida, hundreds of unpaid incarcerated
workers were tasked with picking up fallen trees
and other debris after Hurricane Irma, and in Texas
hundreds of unpaid incarcerated workers filled
sandbags in preparation for Hurricane Harvey,
forced to work in the storm’s path while people
outside prisons were evacuated.30 Incarcerated
firefighters also fight wildfires in Arizona, California,
Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New
Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, South Dakota,
Tennessee, Washington, and Wyoming. For instance,
Georgia’s incarcerated firefighter unit responds to
over 3,000 calls annually, assisting with wildfires,
structural fires, and motor vehicle accidents—for zero
pay.31
A fourth category of prison labor is work for
private industries through the Prison Industry
Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP),
which allows private companies to produce goods
and services using prison labor.32 There are several
employment models within this category. Some

Captive Labor

9

incarcerated people work directly for the private
company while others are employed by the prison
and are essentially contracted out to the company.33
PIECP employs the smallest number—only 4,860
workers, or less than 1 percent—of incarcerated
people of any prison labor program.34
Agricultural work fits within multiple categories
of prison labor. Some incarcerated workers engage
in field labor for the maintenance of the prison,
cultivating and harvesting crops to be eaten by
the people incarcerated there. Others engage in
farming or ranching work for prison industries
programs or for private corporations through
PIECP programs to produce livestock, crops, and
other agricultural products for sale. Twenty-seven
percent of public prisons have work programs
in farming and agriculture.35 Although only 2.2
percent of incarcerated workers are engaged in
agricultural work in prisons nationwide, in some
states, agricultural work constitutes a greater
percentage of work assignments, such as in Arkansas,
where 17 percent of job assignments for incarcerated
people were in agricultural work in 2021.36 Some
of this agricultural work takes place outside prison
walls, while in states including Arkansas, Florida,
Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North
Carolina, and Texas, incarcerated workers work on
penal plantations or prison farms, some of which are
situated on land that was originally the site of slave
plantations.
Analysis using data sets from 2004 and 2005 and
multilevel modeling to examine the nature of
work assignments in state prisons found that race
significantly impacted work assignments. The study,
published in 2016, found that Black men represent
the highest percentage of men assigned to agriculture
and maintenance or other facilities services jobs—
typically lower-paying or unpaid jobs—while a higher
percentage of white men were assigned to public
works jobs and more sought-after and higher-paying
prison industries jobs.37

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ACLU Research Report

Alabama, Arkansas,
Florida, Georgia,
Mississippi, South
Carolina, and Texas pay
zero compensation to
incarcerated people
for the vast majority of
work assignments.
Paid in Pennies
Incarcerated workers in U.S. prisons are often
working for paltry wages or no wages at all. Alabama,
Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South
Carolina, and Texas pay zero compensation to
incarcerated people for the vast majority of work
assignments. For instance, in Texas, only the
approximately 80 workers employed by private
companies through the PIECP program are paid
a wage,38 while the rest of the state’s incarcerated
workers—121,167 workers as of April 2019—labor
unpaid.39 In South Carolina, more than 90 percent of
the state’s incarcerated workers are not paid for their
work.40
Our research found that the average minimum hourly
wage paid to workers for non-industry jobs is 13
cents, and the average maximum hourly wage is 52
cents.41 The overwhelming majority of workers have
jobs that support the operation of the prison facilities
and are compensated at the lower end of prison pay
scales. Prison maintenance jobs pay anywhere from
nothing to pennies per hour. Several prisons in Maine
do not pay at all for laundry, kitchen, cleaning, and
grounds-keeping work.42 The state of Connecticut
pays incarcerated workers employed in maintenance
jobs 75 cents a day.43 And in Kansas, maintenance
workers make just over five cents an hour.44

The about 6.5 percent of workers with jobs in higherpaying state prison industries are paid 30 cents
to $1.30 per hour on average. State-owned prison
industries programs employ incarcerated people
nationwide at a small fraction of the wages they would
pay a regular employee. Oregon’s DMV center pays
its incarcerated workers $4 to $6 a day,45 compared
to the average pay of $80 a day for non-incarcerated
employees doing the same job. An incarcerated
worker in Louisiana making mattresses earns
about 20 cents an hour,46 and another making dorm
furniture in Arkansas is paid nothing at all.47
Incarcerated workers’ wages remain stagnant for
years, even decades. Incarcerated workers in New
York state last received a pay increase in 1993.48
Workers in South Dakota have been paid $0.25 per
hour for non-industry jobs for more than 20 years.49
In Vermont, most incarcerated workers have been
paid $0.25 per hour since 1988, when the pay scale
for non-industry jobs was last revised.50 Workers in
Illinois received a pay raise in 2021 for the first time
in 11 years, an increase of merely 14 cents per day for
general laborers, who are now paid $0.85 to $1.10 per
day.51
Even these low wages are not theirs to keep. Across
the country, prisons deduct as much as 80 percent
from incarcerated people’s paychecks for courtimposed fines, taxes, family support, restitution,
and room and board, among other fees. These wage
deductions often leave incarcerated workers with
less than half of their gross pay. For instance, in the
first half of 2021, 59 percent of the wages earned
by incarcerated workers employed in the Federal
Prison Industries program, known as UNICOR, was
deducted by the federal government.52
In many states a majority of these wage deductions
are for room and board. In a single year, over $22.5
million was deducted from the wages of incarcerated
workers employed by private corporations through
the PIECP program nationwide, more than 60
percent of which went to room and board.53 In
Minnesota, 77 percent ($3.48 million) of wages
earned by incarcerated workers was deducted in
fiscal year 2021, about two-thirds of which went
to “cost of confinement.”54 At the state level, wage

deductions have also been used to sustain and
expand incarceration. For example, Florida has
created a Prison Industries Trust Fund to collect and
administer funds for the “construction or renovation
of its facilities or for the expansion or establishment
of correctional work programs.”55
Workers are left with even less disposable income
because prison systems bleed incarcerated people
dry by charging them exorbitant costs for basic
necessities, like phone calls to loved ones, decent food,
hygiene products, warm clothing, medications, and
medical care. Almost 70 percent of the incarcerated
workers surveyed for this report said that they were
not able to afford basic necessities with their prison
wages.56 Most cannot pay these costs themselves and
must rely on family and friends, placing tremendous
financial strain on families and exposing the wider
community to financial insecurity.
Because incarcerated workers’ wages are so
low, families already struggling from the loss of
income when a family member is incarcerated and
removed from household wage earning must step
in to financially support an incarcerated loved
one. Families with an incarcerated loved one, many
of whom are impoverished themselves, spend an
estimated $2.9 billion a year on commissary accounts
and phone calls.57 Over half of these families are
forced to go into debt to afford the costs of a relative’s
conviction and subsequent incarceration.58

Excluded from Basic
Workplace Protections
Prison labor is a unique labor arrangement. The
employer—usually the prison and sometimes a public
agency or private corporation contracting with the
prison—exercises complete control over the worker.
Given the vast power disparity between prisoners
and their employers, incarcerated workers are an
exceptionally vulnerable labor force. And workers’
testimonies indicate that this vulnerability is too
often abused and exploited by the facilities and their
staff. Incarcerated workers report being assigned
jobs and subjected to punishment in an arbitrary and

Captive Labor

11

discriminatory manner. They also report laboring in
dangerous conditions and without proper training
or protective equipment, exposing them to serious
injuries and health-related harms that are wholly
preventable.
Yet despite overwhelming evidence of exploitation
and negligence in prisons, little has been done
to protect these workers. The vast majority of
incarcerated workers are excluded from federal
statutes such as the Fair Labor Standards Act, Title
VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the National
Labor Relations Act, that provide for minimum
wage, overtime pay, protection from discrimination,
and the right to collectively bargain for improved
work conditions.59 Incarcerated workers also are
excluded from the right to earn into the social safety
net afforded to other workers. Because the work
performed by incarcerated workers is excluded as
covered employment eligible for Social Security,
Medicare, disability insurance, and unemployment
insurance benefits, the time people spend working
while in prison generally does not contribute toward
earning future benefits.60 Incarcerated workers’
earnings also are excluded from refundable income
tax credits.61
The main U.S. federal statute that sets minimum
standards and safeguards for health and safety in the
workplace, the Occupational Safety and Health Act
(OSHA), excludes most incarcerated workers from
its coverage.62 Many health and safety workplace
statutes at the state level do the same, resulting in
gaps in protections for most incarcerated workers.63
Nor are incarcerated workers in most states covered
by workers’ compensation if they are injured or killed
on the job. And when workers attempt to access
remedies for injuries, they are met with grievance
systems inside prisons that are cumbersome, opaque,
and ineffective. Meanwhile, laws and judicial doctrine
increasingly create obstacles for prison workers
who seek legal redress. Among these is the Prison
Litigation Reform Act of 1996, which erected nearly
insurmountable barriers to prisoners who seek to
enforce their rights in federal courts.64

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ACLU Research Report

Injury logs generated
by the California Prison
Industry Authority
show that incarcerated
workers reported more
than 600 injuries over a
four-year period.
Dangerous Work Conditions
and Preventable Injuries
Incarcerated people sometimes work in dangerous
industrial settings or other hazardous conditions
that would be closely regulated by federal workplace
health and safety regulations if they were not
incarcerated. Sixty-four percent of incarcerated
workers surveyed for this report said they felt
concerned about their safety while working.65 Our
research found that incarcerated workers with
minimal experience or training are assigned work in
unsafe conditions and without protective gear that
would be standard in workplaces outside prisons.
Unsurprisingly, this leads to injuries. Incarcerated
workers have been burned with chemicals, maimed,
or killed on the job. Although lack of data related
to workplace conditions and injuries in prisons
makes it difficult to know the full extent of injuries
and deaths, injury logs generated by the California
Prison Industry Authority show that incarcerated
workers reported more than 600 injuries over a fouryear period, including body parts strained, crushed,
lacerated, or amputated.66
In numerous cases we documented nationwide,
injuries could have been prevented with proper
training, machine guarding mechanisms, or personal
protective equipment. Incarcerated workers report
receiving inadequate training on how to handle

hazardous chemicals,67 operate dangerous equipment
with cutting blades, clean biohazardous materials like
excrement and blood,68 and use dangerous kitchen
equipment.69 In fact, almost 70 percent of currently
incarcerated workers who participated in the survey
circulated for this report indicated that they received
no formal job training.70
The systematic failure to adequately train
incarcerated workers has resulted in serious injuries
and deaths. For example:
• An incarcerated worker assigned to an industrial
workshop in a Minnesota state prison suffered
mutilation of his hand and loss of three fingers
while operating a beam saw to slice pieces of
wood. He had never seen a beam saw in his life
and never received official safety training from a
prison official. Instead, he was taught on the job
by another incarcerated worker who had been
operating the saw without the plastic safety guards
meant to protect the operator from the blades.71
• A man incarcerated in an Illinois state prison
assigned to work in a prison food facility lost
several of his fingers on a deli slicer.72 At a trial
concerning the incident, he explained that he
never received an orientation session or even
an explanation of the facility’s rules or safety
precautions.73
• On her second day of work on laundry porter duty
at a Michigan state prison, an incarcerated woman
suffered a traumatic brain injury, fractured skull
and nasal bones, and internal cranial bleeding
after a 400-pound laundry cart fell on her while
she was unloading carts from a truck with a
hydraulic lift. A federal court found that despite
the dangerous work, prison officials provided “only
limited, on-the-job training” and that the laundry
truck lacked a stopper device to prevent the
laundry carts from tipping.74
• An incarcerated woman employed at a private egg
factory in Arizona was forced to rip her own finger
off rather than lose her whole hand to a piece of
machinery she had never been trained on.75

• A man who was incarcerated in a state prison in
Alabama and sent to work a sanitation job at a
private poultry processing plant was killed when
a machine caught his arm and pulled him inside.76
When OSHA later investigated the incident, it
found that employees at the plant might not have
known how to correctly turn off the machine that
killed him.77
• An incarcerated worker in Alabama tasked with
clearing dead pine trees from near a county road
while on a community work crew was struck by a
large fallen branch, suffering a broken back and
rendered a paraplegic.78 He remembers telling
his work supervisor he did not feel qualified to
use the chainsaw and that he feared for his safety
because of the tree’s precarious position. Still, he
was ordered to cut the tree. He complied with the
order because otherwise he would have received
a written reprimand that would affect his parole
eligibility. A federal court found that no one
had provided the incarcerated workers with any
orientation or training about the use of chainsaws,
concluding that assigning incarcerated workers
to use chainsaws without safety training raised a
substantial and obvious risk.79
Workers report injuries that would have been
prevented had they been provided standard
protective equipment. An incarcerated worker
tasked with repairing a damaged sewage line after
thousands of pounds of sewage flooded a Michigan
state prison said he had to wade through excrement
without adequate protective gear such as a respirator
or protective suit.80 As he opened and cleaned backed
up vents, sewage shot out, and he subsequently
tested positive for hepatitis C.81 An incarcerated
worker tasked with removing asbestos from a hot
steam pipe in a New York state prison sustained a
first degree burn because he was not provided with a
high temperature glove.82 Repeated injuries caused
by objects becoming lodged in incarcerated workers’
eyes while using industrial grinders in California
could have been prevented if they had proper safety
goggles or visors.83
The conditions of work can be inherently dangerous.
Incarcerated workers are employed at dangerous

Captive Labor

13

Incarcerated workers endure brutal temperatures
with inadequate water or breaks, while working
outdoors and inside facilities without air conditioning.
Incarcerated firefighters have been sickened and
killed by heat exposure during routine training
exercises in California.88 Formerly incarcerated
agricultural workers at Louisiana’s Angola prison
report witnessing other farm workers collapse from
exhaustion or dehydration while working in the fields
on hot days.89 In Texas, an incarcerated man working
as a dog trainer died of severe hyperthermia; he had
been wearing a 75-pound fight suit on a hot day and
collapsed while training attack dogs to catch escaped
prisoners.90
Workers have also been exposed to dangerous toxins
on the job. Incarcerated workers perform asbestos
abatement in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Utah
through each state’s correctional industries program.
An incarcerated man working at the electrical shop
of a federal prison in Illinois filed suit after his
supervisor ordered him to crush fluorescent bulbs
containing mercury in an unventilated room. When he
asked for a face mask, he was told that he was “shit out
of luck.”91 Incarcerated workers employed at a battery

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manufacturing factory in Georgia were exposed to
dangerous levels of lead,92 and incarcerated workers
employed in the federal prisons’ UNICOR electronicswaste recycling program who disassembled and
recycled computer parts were exposed to poisonous
metals, causing serious health problems.93
When incarcerated workers are hurt on the job, they
may be denied medical care or receive substandard
care. In North Carolina, four incarcerated workers
with severe chemical burns received nothing more
than diaper rash ointment for their injuries.94 In
Georgia, a kitchen worker had his leg amputated due
to improper medical care of a wound he sustained
from slipping and falling while working in the prison
kitchen.95 In Colorado, an incarcerated worker
assigned to a sawmill was told by a supervisor to reach
into a conveyor belt area to dislodge a piece of wood.
A blade sliced through her helmet and straight into
her skull, nearly decapitating her.96 Instead of being
rushed to the emergency room, a shift commander
ordered her back to the prison infirmary with two
feminine hygiene pads on her wound because the
sawmill had no first aid kit. She later developed an
antibiotic-resistant staph infection.97

Prison Labor During the
Pandemic
Incarcerated people, recognized as one of the
populations most vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus,
were on the front line of the pandemic response. Nearly
every state in the country reported that incarcerated
workers contributed labor to the pandemic response.
Incarcerated workforces were widely used to meet the
demands of protective equipment production early
in the pandemic.98 Incarcerated workers were tasked
with manufacturing hand sanitizer, masks, medical
gowns, face shields, and other personal protective
equipment that they were then prohibited from using
to protect themselves.99 Incarcerated people also
worked in morgues, transported dead bodies, dug
mass graves, and built coffins. They washed soiled
hospital laundry, disinfected supplies, and cleaned
medical units.

Photo © Getty

meat, poultry, and egg processing plants, where
lack of adequate training or safety procedures has
led to dozens of documented injuries and at least
one death of incarcerated workers.84 Incarcerated
workers have suffered injuries and amputations
from sewing and cutting machinery while working
in garment factories.85 Incarcerated workers have
been severely injured—even paralyzed and killed—
by falling trees and tree limbs while cutting down
trees on community work crews and in forestry and
firefighting jobs.86 In California, where research has
shown that incarcerated workers were more likely
to be injured than professional firefighters, at least
four incarcerated firefighters have been killed while
fighting wildfires, and more than 1,000 required
hospital care during a five-year period.87 Even work
in industrial-scale prison kitchens and laundries
can be dangerous because it involves huge industrial
equipment that carries mechanical and electrical
safety risks as well as risk of burns, lacerations, and
exposure to hazardous chemicals.

At times, incarcerated workers had to perform work
that put them at the highest level of exposure to the
virus. In at least five states (Michigan, Missouri,
New York, Oregon, and Texas), incarcerated
workers participated in frontline health roles that
put them at high risk of contracting COVID-19.100
Incarcerated people working in prison laundries
in Oregon and Missouri were tasked with cleaning
bedsheets, towels, and gowns from hospitals treating
COVID-19 patients.101 In Texas, previously unpaid
incarcerated workers were paid $2 an hour to work
in mobile morgues and transport bodies from the
Medical Examiner’s Office in El Paso.102 In New York,
workers who were tasked with digging mass graves
were transitioned from an hourly wage of $0.65 to
$6. The Rikers Island jail offered personal protective
equipment as a “privilege” to any incarcerated
worker tasked with digging mass graves.103
Our research identified at least 40 state departments
of correction and state prison industries programs
that pivoted to manufacture personal protective
equipment and hand sanitizer for healthcare workers
and other state employees. Incarcerated workers
performed this work at the height of early pandemic
lockdowns, often without personal protective

Photo © Mario Tama/Getty Images

Incarcerated workers from
the El Paso County detention
facility load bodies wrapped
in plastic into a refrigerated
temporary morgue trailer in
a parking lot of the El Paso
County Medical Examiner's
office on November 16, 2020 in
El Paso, Texas, amid a surge of
COVID-19 cases in El Paso.

equipment or the recommended social distancing,
putting their health and lives at risk. Incarcerated
workers at Great Meadow Correctional Facility in
New York were working around the clock in eighthour shifts to bottle 100,000 gallons of hand sanitizer
every week for 65 cents an hour.104 Incarcerated
workers at Green Haven Correctional Facility in New
York built 1,400 coffins per week in April 2020 as
COVID-19 spread through the prison.105 California
prisons halted most programming in an effort to
slow down the spread of COVID-19, while keeping
open its state prison factories as incarcerated women
worked seven days a week to produce masks and hand
sanitizer.106 In Pennsylvania, while the state prison
system was under quarantine, some incarcerated
workers worked 12 hours a day, six days a week to
manufacture masks, medical gowns, antibacterial
soap, and disinfectant.107 Incarcerated workers
in at least 15 federal prisons around the country
manufactured masks, gowns, and sanitizer for $0.23
an hour.108 Workers in Texas were not paid at all for
their work manufacturing face masks and medical
gowns for first responders.109
In every state in the country, incarcerated workers
whose job assignments are considered essential

Captive Labor

15

were required to continue working during COVID19 lockdowns, including jobs in manufacturing,
agriculture, firefighting, meat processing, food
services, and construction.110 Although these
incarcerated essential workers later met the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention’s priority
categories 1a and 1b for COVID-19 vaccine rollout,
16 states left incarcerated people out of their phase 1
vaccine distribution entirely.111
As COVID-19 spread in March and April 2020, in
some prisons, incarcerated workers were required
to continue even work that was nonessential, such as
making office furniture or stamping license plates.112
For instance, in April 2020, Florida suspended family
visits in the interest of safety while continuing to
force incarcerated people to do “road maintenance,
sewage treatment, and moving services for
governmental buildings.”113
Incarcerated workers labored during the pandemic
under the threat of punishment if they refused
their work assignments. For instance, incarcerated
workers in Colorado who opted out of kitchen work
assignments in 2020 due to health concerns lost
“earned time,” meaning their parole eligibility dates
were pushed later.114 Workers who subsequently
returned to their job assignments because of the
threats of having to serve more time in prison, being
placed in more restrictive housing units, and losing
phone calls and family visits recently filed a classaction lawsuit alleging that state prison authorities
violated the state ban on slavery and involuntary
servitude by forcing them to work.115 DG Foods, a
poultry processing plant in Bastrop, Louisiana,
avoided shutting down operations at the height of
COVID-19 by relying on incarcerated laborers who
similarly faced loss of their earned-time credits
should they refuse to work.116

Dead-End Jobs
Despite all this, state governments describe
their prison labor programs as rehabilitative.117
Incarcerated workers are eager to learn new job
skills: More than 70 percent of incarcerated workers

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ACLU Research Report

rank skills-learning as a very important reason
for working.118 However, the promise of providing
incarcerated people with transferable skills and
work experience for their eventual reentry into
society often proves illusory. In reality, the vast
majority of work programs in prisons involve menial
and repetitive tasks that provide workers with no
marketable skills or training.119
Our research shows that better-paid prison
industries jobs are declining, while maintenance
jobs increasingly represent a larger share of work
assignments. Vocational training programs are
declining in prisons across the country, cut from
state correctional budgets. The rate of participation
in job training programs has fallen nationwide among
people incarcerated in state prisons, according to
analysis of the Bureau of Justice Statistics surveys
of people in prisons conducted periodically between
1986 and 2016.120
Even vocational programs often fail to meet their
full potential. Incarcerated workers report that
vocational programs often involve training on
outdated equipment no longer used outside of prison
walls,121 described by one formerly incarcerated
worker as “stuff from the dinosaur era.”122 A state
legislative audit of the Louisiana Prison Enterprises
program found that one-third of incarcerated people
working in the state prison industries program
are trained for jobs that are projected to decrease
in the labor market, such as garment factory work
and agriculture, finding that “many…may not be
learning job skills that could help them after they are
released.”123 A state legislative audit of Mississippi’s
correctional industries program likewise found it
is providing “work skills in occupations for which
there were expected to be few to no job prospects in
Mississippi.”124
Moreover, when people leave prison, they face
state-imposed barriers to finding employment, such
as laws that explicitly authorize discrimination
against formerly incarcerated individuals in
housing, employment, and other areas of life.125 State
occupational licensing restrictions often bar people
with conviction records from work in the very fields
they trained in while incarcerated.126

While less than 1 %
of state correctional
budgets goes to wages
for incarcerated
workers, 68 percent is
spent on wages and
benefits for the public
sector staff who operate
prisons and jails.
Who Benefits from Prison
Labor?
This system serves a purpose, but not one consistent
with basic human rights. Prison labor is designed to
benefit primarily public entities that capitalize on a
vulnerable population that is, at once, a captive labor
force127 and a captive consumer base.128
Although some private companies contract with
corrections departments to use prison labor in their
production or services—and this report identifies
some of the corporations that currently employ
incarcerated workers—work for private companies
accounts for less than 1 percent of work assignments
in prison labor programs. Private companies do
profit from incarcerated individuals’ need to provide
for their basic needs while in prison, including food,
health, and communications,129 but they are not the
primary beneficiaries of prison labor.130
The primary beneficiaries of the labor of incarcerated
workers are federal, state, and local governments.
Federal and state governments offset budget
shortfalls by forcing incarcerated laborers to work
to maintain the very prisons that confine them.131
State and local governments also rely on unpaid and
low-paid incarcerated workers for a variety of public

works projects. For instance, the Florida Department
of Corrections estimates the value of the labor of the
3,500 unpaid incarcerated workers working on state
road crews and community work squads to be about
$147.5 million over a five-year period.132 “There’s no
way we can take care of our facilities, our roads, our
ditches, if we didn’t have inmate labor,” Warren
Yeager, a former Gulf County, Florida, commissioner
told the Florida Times-Union.133 State governments
also rely on incarcerated workers as a low-wage
labor force to respond to a variety of disasters and
emergencies throughout the country.134 At least
30 states explicitly include incarcerated workers
as a labor resource in their state-level emergency
operations plans.135
Prisons also provide a cheap and compliant labor
force through correctional industries, the stateowned businesses that produce goods and services
sold to other state entities. In fiscal year 2021, the
federal government’s UNICOR prison industries
program reported $404 million in net sales of goods
and services produced by the 16,315 federally
incarcerated workers who are employed in the
program.136 In fiscal year 2020, Illinois’ correctional
industries program sold over $33.5 million worth
of goods and services from incarcerated workers to
its own state agencies, state universities, and local
governments,137 while California’s correctional
industries program sold over $191 million in
manufactured goods, services, and agricultural
products produced by incarcerated workers in fiscal
year 2020–21.138
In 2021, the value of goods, services, and
commodities produced by the incarcerated workers
employed in state prison industries programs
nationwide—who represent only about
6.5 percent of all incarcerated workers—totaled
over $2 billion.139 The precise value of incarcerated
workers’ labor to maintain the very prisons that
confine them—work such as food preparation,
maintenance, laundry, and cleaning—is unknown
but totals vastly more. In 2004, the value of services
provided by incarcerated workers laboring to
maintain and operate the prisons that confine them
was conservatively estimated to be $9 billion.140

Captive Labor

17

Prison Labor Masks the True
Costs of Mass Incarceration
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, state
governments spend nearly $50 billion a year to keep
over 1 million people in prisons (the United States
spends over $81 billion to run its corrections system—
including prisons, jails, parole, and probation—that
keeps nearly 2 million people behind bars).141 While
less than 1 percent of state correctional budgets
goes to wages for incarcerated workers,142 more than
two-thirds (68 percent) of state prison expenditures
is spent on wages and benefits for the public sector
staff who operate prisons and jails.143 Payroll for state
correctional staff alone totals over $2 billion each
month.144
The true costs to operate our prisons are much
higher. Incarcerated workers’ labor partially offsets
the staggering costs of our country’s bloated prison
system. The cost-savings of unpaid and grossly
underpaid prison maintenance labor and the
revenues from commodities and services generated
by imprisoned laborers prevent policy makers and
the public from reckoning with the true fiscal costs of
mass incarceration.
Some government officials have even voiced
opposition to efforts to reduce prison and jail
populations precisely because it would reduce the
incarcerated workforce. In 2017, Steven Prator,
a Louisiana sheriff opposing new sentencing
and parole laws, made the operating logic clear:
Incarcerated laborers are a “necessary evil to keep
the [prison] doors open.”145 He added,
“We need to keep some out there, that’s the
ones that you can work, that pick up trash,
the work release program, but guess what?
Those are the ones that they are releasing…
the good ones, that we use every day to wash
cars, change oil in our cars, to cook in the
kitchen, to do all that where we save money…
well, they are gonna let them out.”146
Similarly, the Los Angeles Times reported that
lawyers with the office of the then-Attorney General
of California, Kamala Harris, argued in court that

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ACLU Research Report

a parole program to increase earned sentence
reductions for eligible incarcerated people would
cause the state to lose an important labor pool:
incarcerated people working as firefighters. In a
September 2014 filing in the case, signed by Deputy
Attorney General Patrick McKinney but under
Harris’ name, the state argued, “Extending 2-for-1
credits to all minimum custody inmates at this time
would severely impact fire camp participation—a
dangerous outcome while California is in the middle
of a difficult fire season and severe drought.”147
But we should not have prison policy driven by a
desire for cheap labor. Even though prison labor is
not what is driving mass incarceration in the United
States, when incarcerated people are used for cheap
labor, there is a risk that our criminal justice policy
will be hijacked by the desire to grow or maintain this
literally captive labor force.

The Path Forward
It does not have to be this way. Work in prisons could
be truly voluntary. Conditions could be safe. Jobs
could provide incarcerated people with real wages
and opportunities in vocational training and skills
development that meaningfully prepare them for
success upon release. Work in prisons could help
incarcerated workers build self-esteem and provide a
break from the crushing monotony of prison life.
To move in this direction, incarcerated workers
should be paid a fair wage that enables them to save
for the future, support their families, and sets them
up for a successful reentry—97 percent of people in
prison will return to their communities, and studies
show that recidivism is reduced when returning
citizens have savings148 and stable employment.149
Prison work programs that provide vocational
training should be expanded to provide incarcerated
workers with marketable skills and training that
will help them to find employment after release.
Research has found that joblessness is the single
most important predictor of recidivism.150 Vocational
programs can boost formerly incarcerated

individuals’ job prospects by almost 30 percent.151
A November 2021 study of California’s prison
industry program found that “participants were
significantly less likely to be arrested at one, two
and three years post release” than incarcerated
people who were waitlisted for the program.152 The
federal government’s UNICOR prison industries
program has been shown to reduce recidivism by 24
percent and participants in the program are more
likely to be employed after release from prison than
similarly situated individuals, yet the program has a
25,000-person waitlist and employs only 8 percent of
workers incarcerated in federal prisons.153 Expanding
these programs makes good economic sense: Money
spent on vocational programs in the short term
translates into long-term gains through reduced
recidivism rates.154
Even those who run our prisons agree it is time to
raise incarcerated workers' wages and provide more
job training opportunities in prisons. The American
Correctional Association—the trade association
that has served as the voice of the U.S. corrections
profession since 1870—called for incarcerated
workers to have decent work, pay, and working
conditions in a 2016 resolution calling for the
repeal of the 13th Amendment clause that excludes
incarcerated people from its protection against
slavery and involuntary servitude.155
In the face of extreme obstacles—the Supreme Court
has held that incarcerated people do not have a First
Amendment right to form a union156—incarcerated
workers have organized to demand improved pay
and conditions. Incarcerated workers have formed
the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, a
prisoner-led local of the Industrial Workers of the
World that organized two national prison strikes in
2016 and 2018.157 Incarcerated people in 17 states
went on strike in August 2018 to call attention to
various issues, including low wages, and called for
work stoppages and an end to what the organizers call
“prison slavery.”158 Strike organizers demanded that
incarcerated workers be paid the prevailing wage for
their labor, among other demands.
The best way to protect incarcerated workers is to
treat them as much as possible like non-incarcerated

employees. Incarcerated workers must receive the
basic protections guaranteed in nonexploitative
workplaces. They should be protected by occupational
health and safety laws, and compensated for injuries
on the job. Basic labor protections and meaningful
access to redress when their rights are violated
should be the minimum standard.
International human rights law can guide reform
efforts. Core human rights instruments ratified
by the United States, as well as other authoritative
documents at the international level, provide a
basic standard that prohibits dehumanizing and
exploitative treatment undermining incarcerated
people’s human dignity.
The following key recommendations, if enacted,
would help ameliorate the exploitative conditions
of work experienced by workers incarcerated in U.S.
correctional institutions. These recommendations
were developed in consultation with advocates and
incarcerated workers interviewed for this report.
A more comprehensive set of recommendations is
provided at the end of this report.

Key Recommendations
End forced labor, without exceptions.
• Repeal federal and state constitutional exception
clauses allowing slavery and involuntary servitude
to be used as punishment for a criminal conviction.
• Ensure that all work in prisons is fully voluntary
by eliminating any laws and policies that require
forced labor or impose adverse consequences on
incarcerated workers who are unable or unwilling
to work.
• Prison authorities should ensure incarcerated
workers who seek exemptions from work duties are
granted such exemptions when they are unable to
carry out their assigned jobs due to illness, injury,
disability, or other physical or mental limitations.

Captive Labor

19

End arbitrary and discriminatory allocation
of jobs.
• Adopt laws and policies to ensure work
assignments are not allocated or taken away in an
arbitrary or discriminatory manner, including on
the basis of race, gender, and disability.
• Take incarcerated people’s preferences into
account when selecting job assignments.
• Comply with federal disability rights laws,
which require prisons to provide reasonable
accommodations to incarcerated people with
disabilities who wish to work, to allow them to fully
and equally participate in work and vocational
programs.
Guarantee incarcerated workers the
standard labor protections available to other
workers in the United States.
• Amend federal and state laws to ensure that
incarcerated workers enjoy the standard labor
protections available to other workers in the
United States with regard to minimum wages,
overtime pay, health and safety standards,
unionization and collective bargaining, and
protection from discrimination and retaliation,
among other protections.
Raise incarcerated workers’ wages and
eliminate or limit wage deductions.
• Ensure incarcerated workers are paid prevailing
wages no less than the minimum wage of the state
where they work and limit wage deductions.
• Adopt policies eliminating or limiting wage
deductions to no more than 20 percent of
incarcerated workers’ wages, solely to be used
to cover legal obligations such as child support.
Cease all deductions for costs of incarceration or
prison capital improvement funds.
• Include work performed by incarcerated workers
under covered employment eligible for Social
Security, Medicare, disability, unemployment
insurance, Earned Income Tax Credit, and
Child Tax Credit benefits, making it possible for
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ACLU Research Report

incarcerated workers to earn toward and receive
future benefits.
Protect incarcerated workers from injuries
and hazards.
• Amend occupational health and safety and
workers’ compensation laws that exclude most
incarcerated workers from their coverage, and
ensure federal and state occupational health and
safety administrations monitor conditions in all
workplaces inside prisons.
• Provide adequate personal protective and safety
equipment to incarcerated workers.
• Institute mandatory safety standards and
comprehensive safety training programs for all
work assignments in correctional institutions.
Permit incarcerated workers to join labor
unions.
• Recognize incarcerated people’s right to associate
and permit incarcerated workers to form labor
unions and bargain collectively so that workers
can negotiate improved working conditions for
themselves.
Ensure incarcerated workers have access to
redress when their rights are violated.
Provide incarcerated workers with
marketable skills and training and eliminate
barriers to securing employment after
release.
• Invest in valuable work and education programs
designed to enhance incarcerated individuals’
prospects of securing employment and becoming
self-sufficient upon release.
• Eliminate occupational licensing restrictions,
adopt comprehensive fair-chance hiring
policies, and pass ban-the-box statutes to reduce
discrimination against formerly incarcerated
people and remove barriers to securing
employment after release.

Research Methodology
This report was produced jointly by the ACLU Human
Rights Program and the Global Human Rights
Clinic of the University of Chicago Law School.159
Findings are based on desk research, responses to
open records requests, questionnaire responses,
interviews, and fact-finding conducted between
January 2019 and April 2022.

Desk Research and Policy
Analysis
Research included an examination of domestic and
international legal standards on prison labor, U.S.
legislation and regulations at the federal and state
level, historical studies of prison labor programs
in the United States, sociological and penological
studies measuring the impact of prison labor
programs, published investigative journalism on
prison labor, and official reports on incarceration
and recidivism. The authors analyzed publicly
available policies and regulations concerning
incarcerated workers published by state departments
of corrections and the Federal Bureau of Prisons, as
well as reports and other information about prison
labor programs published by the Federal Bureau
of Prisons, state departments of corrections, and
correctional industries programs. The authors also
analyzed published reports by state and federal
prison agencies or departments that oversee and/
or have audited work programs; court rulings in
lawsuits brought by incarcerated workers concerning
workplace injuries; and complaints filed by
incarcerated workers with OSHA.

FOIAs
The authors submitted requests under the Freedom
of Information Act (FOIA) to all 50 states of the
United States, as well as the Federal Bureau of
Prisons, seeking basic data on the number, race,
gender, and percentage of incarcerated people
working in prison labor programs, disaggregated
by type of work assignment; the amount of wages
paid to incarcerated laborers; and the amount of
deductions subtracted from their pay. Twenty-three
states replied to the request with varying levels of
responsiveness; 27 states provided no information.160

DOJ Survey Analysis
The authors conducted descriptive analyses on work
assignments from a national, wide-ranging survey
of people age 18 or older who are incarcerated in
correctional facilities conducted by the Department
of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics in 2016 and
published in September 2021.161 The sampling
universe for the survey consisted of state and federal
prisons housing 1,502,671 people and the final full
survey sample was 24,115. For the purposes of this
analysis, we limited the sample to those housed in
federal or state prisons (thus those incarcerated
in facilities run by U.S. Immigration and Customs
Enforcement, U.S. Marshalls, and local authorities
were excluded from our analysis), resulting in a
sample of 23,921 incarcerated people.162

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21

Questionnaires of Incarcerated Interviews
Workers in Three States
The authors interviewed 78 key stakeholders and
The authors conducted more in-depth primary
investigations in three case-study states—California,
Illinois, and Louisiana. These states were selected
because they represent different models of prison
labor systems in different geographic areas of the
United States. The authors designed a six-part
questionnaire consisting of 27 questions that was
sent to 600 people currently incarcerated in prisons
in the three states: California, Illinois, and Louisiana.
The questions included closed- and open-ended
questions about their prison jobs, including questions
about wages, other compensation or benefits, wage
deductions, job training, voluntariness of the work,
safety precautions, dangerousness of the work, and
whether respondents could afford basic necessities
with the wages they were paid. The individuals
contacted were selected from online databases
cataloguing the people incarcerated in each state:
VINELink for Louisiana, the California Department
of Corrections and Rehabilitation Inmate Locator for
California, and Illinois Department of Corrections
Inmate Search for Illinois. Names were selected at
random using the following sampling criteria: 25
percent have served less than five years in prison
and 75 percent have served more than five years;
sampling from different prisons proportionally to
their populations; and sampling proportional to the
racial and gender breakdowns of each state’s prison
population. Of the 101 surveys that were completed
and returned, 48 were received from 20 different
facilities across Illinois,163 35 were received from 16
facilities across California,164 and 18 were received
from nine facilities across Louisiana.165 Responses
to the questionnaire were recorded, aggregated, and
turned into percentages, which allowed the authors
to observe and track trends across the three states.
All individuals who responded to the survey provided
written informed consent to participate. Survey
respondents’ names are used when they provided
written, informed consent to use their real name in
the report, while most survey respondents’ names
are not published in the report to preserve their
anonymity at their request.

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ACLU Research Report

experts, including formerly incarcerated individuals,
representatives of advocacy organizations, academics,
and leaders of reentry organizations. Of these, 26
interviewees are in California, nine in Illinois, 17 in
Louisiana, and 26 in other states. These interviews
were conducted between October 2019 and November
2021. Members of the team traveled to Louisiana to
conduct 17 interviews in person. Plans to conduct
interviews in person in other locations were changed
due to COVID-19 and these interviews were instead
conducted over phone or Zoom. Interviewers followed
an interview protocol and took notes during and
immediately following the interview. Interviews were
typically between one and 1.5 hours. All individuals
interviewed provided verbal informed consent to
participate and did not receive any compensation for
participating in interviews. Individuals interviewed
were offered the option of using their real name in the
report or remaining anonymous. Separate interview
questionnaires were formulated for each interview,
and the content of the questions were tailored to
each interviewee’s personal situation/experience,
relationship to the criminal legal system, or area of
expertise.

Understanding Prison Labor
There are roughly 800,000 people working while
incarcerated in state and federal prisons in the
United States, where they are stripped of practically
all control over their lives. Within prisons, everyday
decisions like when to eat, sleep, and bathe become
subject to the arbitrary and unpredictable policies,
practices, and whims of correctional officers.
Incarcerated people are often told what they can
and cannot read, and whether and when they can
communicate with loved ones.
In addition to being stripped of these basic freedoms,
incarcerated people also lose the right to refuse to
work when they enter prison. They have no right to
choose what type of work they do and are subject to
arbitrary, discriminatory, and punitive decisions

by the prison administrators who select their work
assignments.166
The vast majority—more than 80 percent—of
incarcerated workers labor as cooks, dishwashers,
janitors, groundskeepers or plumbers; or in
laundries, kitchens and hospitals, keeping the
facilities that confine them running. Others are
put to work producing goods and services sold by
the federal and state governments and the private
sector for a profit. They provide public services
such as repairing roads, clearing land, planting
trees, or fighting wildfires. They carry out industrial
work, manufacturing products like office furniture,
mattresses, license plates, and uniforms. They
labor on prison farms and work in meat, poultry,
Photo © Photo by Sandy Huffaker / AFP via Getty Images

Incarcerated women work in
the laundry room at Las Colinas
Women's Detention Facility in
Santee, California.

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23

dairy, and egg processing. Although prison labor
has undergone various permutations throughout
U.S. history, the model in U.S. prisons for labor has
remained far too close to its “chain gang” origins.

Prison Labor by the Numbers
Under today’s system of mass incarceration, almost 2
million people are held in prisons and jails across the
United States.167 Of the more than 1.2 million people
incarcerated in state and federal prisons,168 over 65
percent work.169 We estimate that at least 791,500
people incarcerated in U.S. prisons perform work
as part of their incarceration.170 Because of a lack of
available data, our estimate excludes people confined
in local jails or detention centers, juvenile correctional
facilities, and immigration detention facilities.
This figure is an estimate because the last national
data on the number of incarcerated workers is from
a Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics
census conducted in 2005, which documented
800,208 people incarcerated in state and federal
prisons who were participating in work programs at
that time.171 About half of all people incarcerated in
state and federal prisons had work assignments in
2005, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.172
Subsequent prison censuses published by the
Bureau of Justice Statistics have not included data
specifying how many incarcerated people have work
assignments.
The ACLU and the GHRC filed FOIA requests with
the federal government and in all 50 states seeking
data on the number of incarcerated people with work
assignments, but the Federal Bureau of Prisons
and all but eight state departments of corrections
refused to provide such data. Some states reported
that they do not maintain such data, others claimed
that it would be too burdensome to determine how
many people incarcerated in their prisons have work
assignments, and 27 states refused to respond at
all. Appendix A details the number of incarcerated
workers in the 20 states where we were able to obtain
such data through FOIAs or data made public by
departments of correction.

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ACLU Research Report

Over 65 percent of
people incarcerated
in state and federal
prisons—an estimated
791,500 people—work.
To arrive at our estimate, the authors analyzed data
from a national, wide-ranging survey of people age
18 or older who are incarcerated in state and federal
correctional facilities conducted by the Bureau of
Justice Statistics in 2016 and published in September
2021.173 65.1 percent of people incarcerated in
federal and state prisons who were surveyed by
the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that they
have work assignments.174 The sampling universe
for the survey consisted of state and federal prisons
housing 1,502,671 people (the final full survey sample
was 24,115 incarcerated people).175 Since 2016, the
prison population dropped to 1,215,821 people at
yearend 2020, according to the most recent available
data published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics in
December 2021.176
The percentage of people incarcerated in state and
federal prisons who reported to the Bureau of Justice
Statistics and the Federal Bureau of Prisons that they
held work assignments at the time of the survey has
declined slightly, from 71.5 percent in 1991 to 65.1
percent today.177
Today, almost all U.S. prisons have work programs
that employ incarcerated workers: Nearly 99 percent
of public adult prisons and nearly 90 percent of
private adult prisons have work programs that
employ incarcerated workers, according to the
Bureau of Justice Statistics census of state and
federal correctional facilities conducted in 2019 and
published in November 2021.178 According to this
census, more than 1.2 million people are incarcerated
in adult prisons that have work programs employing
incarcerated workers.179

Source: Detroit Publishing Company photograph collection (Library of Congress)

Although the Federal Bureau of Prisons and nearly
all state departments of corrections also refused
to provide data on the race of prisoners with work
assignments, the incarcerated labor force is
undoubtedly disproportionately made up of people
who are Black, relative to their overall representation
in the general population. Black Americans are
incarcerated in state prisons at nearly five times the
rate of whites, and in 12 states, more than half the
prison population is Black, despite constituting 13
percent of the nationwide general population.180

History of Incarcerated Labor
in the United States
Incarcerated labor has a long and problematic history
in the United States, rooted in racial oppression. The
roots of modern-day labor programs can be traced
to the end of the Civil War and the passage of the
13th Amendment to the Constitution in 1865. The
13th Amendment outlawed slavery and involuntary
servitude, “except as a punishment for crime whereof
the party shall have been duly convicted.”181 Given
this gaping loophole, states turned to incarcerated
labor as a means of partially replacing chattel slavery
and the free labor force slavery provided.
In the North, incarcerated people were contracted out
to private individuals and entities to perform labor
in industrial factories.182 Under this contract system,
incarcerated laborers were often forced to work 14
to 16 hours a day and were brutally punished for
not working fast enough, for accidentally damaging
equipment, and sometimes for no reason at all.183
These severe punishments, which included hoisting
incarcerated individuals “up by the thumbs with
fishing line and a pulley mechanism attached to the
ceiling,”184 allowed Northern states to produce in one
year alone what, in today’s dollars, amounts to over
$30 billion worth of prison-made goods.185 By the late
1800s, over 75 percent of the North’s incarcerated
population worked in these factories. This economic
exploitation fell largely upon impoverished,
immigrant, and African American communities who

A Southern chain gang, photo taken between 1900 and 1906.

made up the majority of the incarcerated population
in the North.186
In the South, conditions for incarcerated people
were just as brutal, with incarcerated workers being
forced to labor for up to 17 hours each day, building
factories, laying railroads, and mining coal.187 Under
the convict leasing system, this work was conducted
under the supervision of private employers who
could bid on and “lease” incarcerated people for days,
months, or years to work on plantations and at coal
mines, turpentine farms, sawmills, phosphate pits,
railways, and brickyards.188 These private employers
had unfettered control over unpaid, predominantly
Black workers and subjected them to brutal
punishments such as whipping and branding and, in
many cases, worked incarcerated people to death.189
In Mississippi, not a single leased convict lived long
enough to serve a 10-year sentence.190 Because the
leasing system was so profitable for Southern states
and lessees alike, new laws known as Black Codes
were passed which permitted sheriffs to arrest Black
men on specious charges and indirectly allowed
states to expand their convict leasing programs.191

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25

Organized free labor, disgruntled by having to
compete with incarcerated labor, was the driving
force behind the fall of the contract system in the
North and the convict leasing programs in the
South.192 By the 1890s, 35 states capitulated to
rising union pressure to scale back incarcerated
labor programs as a way to reduce competition in
the labor market. The result of this concession was
the implementation of the “state-use system,”193 in
which the state became the only lawful purchaser
of incarcerated labor and goods.194 When Congress
established the first federal prisons in 1891, a
similar system was adopted in which incarcerated
people could be forced to work and produce certain
commodities, provided that these workers were
“employed exclusively in the manufacture of such
supplies for the Government.”195
As state corrections systems expanded, so too did
the number of state-sponsored incarcerated labor
programs. Work crews, commonly known as chain
gangs, were first established in the 1890s in Georgia
and spread throughout the South as states began to
phase out the convict lease system.196 These chain
gangs consisted of prisoners, the vast majority
of whom were Black men, shackled together with
chains wrapped around their ankles, day and night,
even while working, sleeping, or eating. They were
forced to engage in unpaid labor in brutal conditions
outside of the prison, such as road construction,
ditch digging, rock breaking, highway maintenance,

The 13th Amendment
outlawed slavery and
involuntary servitude,
“except as a punishment
for crime whereof the
party shall have been
duly convicted.”
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ACLU Research Report

and farming, under the supervision of correctional
officers armed with shotguns and whips. Chain gangs
became more prevalent in the early 20th century as
states gradually abolished the convict leasing system,
as Georgia did in 1908 and later Alabama in 1928.
By 1923 every state except for Rhode Island had
used chain gangs to build and repair roads, but the
practice was most widely used in the South.197
In 1913, Wisconsin established the first work-release
program in the United States.198 This program
allowed those convicted of misdemeanors to leave jail
during the day for the limited purpose of attending
work (and sometimes school, community service, or
other activities).199 Since the workers’ wages were
collected directly by the jail, which also profited from
reduced supervisions costs, the model proved to
be quite cost-effective.200 Several states were quick
to adopt near-identical versions of the Wisconsin
program, while others sought to further reduce the
costs associated with incarcerating large swaths
of their population by expanding the program to
prisons and allowing those convicted of minor
felonies to participate as well.201
A similar growth in incarcerated labor programs
occurred within the federal system as well. In 1934,
four years after the Federal Bureau of Prisons was
first established, Congress authorized the creation
of the Federal Prison Industries program (later
rebranded as “UNICOR” in 1977). This program
allowed federal prisons to employ incarcerated
individuals “in the manufacture of articles for, the
production of supplies for, the construction of public
works for, and the maintenance and care of the
institutions of, the State or political subdivision of the
State in which they are imprisoned.”202 The initial aim
of this program, like many of those discussed above,
was to offset the costs of incarceration by allowing
state governments to profit from prison labor.203
Like the state-use system, this program drew intense
criticism from powerful union groups who were
concerned that prison labor would displace “free
labor.”204 The American Federation of Labor’s
executive council said in 1928, “The manufacture
and sale of commodities produced by convict labor in
competition with free labor is a menace to working

men and women.”205 In response, Congress passed
several pieces of legislation that outlawed the use
of prison labor to maintain federal highways and
prohibited the interstate sale of prison-made goods,
but made certain exceptions which allowed states and
the federal government to continue benefitting from
prison labor. The 1935 Ashurst-Sumners Act, for
example, made it a federal crime to transport prisonmade goods into or out of states which had outlawed
this practice, but made an exception for “commodities
manufactured in a Federal, District of Columbia, or
State institution for use by the Federal Government,
or by the District of Columbia, or by any State or
Political subdivision of a State.”206
These legislative reforms were short-lived. Beginning
in the 1970s, Congress and individual states
increasingly allowed private entities and state
governments to benefit from incarcerated labor.207
For example, in 1972, Minnesota established
America’s first “restitution centers” in which lowlevel offenders were “paroled” out of jail only to be
sent to a lower-security confinement facility where
they were required to secure employment to pay off
any victim restitution which they owed, , or otherwise
participate in community service.208 Similar to workrelease programs, these so-called restitution centers
proved incredibly cost-effective and, in the years
that immediately followed, were rapidly adopted
by other states.209 Like the first restitution center
in Minnesota,210 however, many of these programs
ceased to exist only a few years following their
creation, although they continue to remain on the
books in some states.211
Changes also occurred at the federal level. In 1979,
Congress amended the Ashurst-Sumners Act to allow
for the creation of “prison work pilot projects,” whereby
prison workers could be employed under joint ventures
between private companies and state correctional
facilities to produce goods authorized for sale in
interstate commerce. Under this program, the PIECP,
prison laborers were to receive prevailing wages—that
is, market wages212—subject to certain enumerated
deductions. In this way, it was thought, private
companies using prison labor would not displace
companies that employed free workers, as both would
be providing market wages to their workers.

Types of Prison Labor
Labor programs in prisons across the country today
take many forms, and the experiences of workers
in prison vary from state to state and even from
facility to facility.213 Nonetheless, prison labor can
generally be grouped into six types: (1) maintenance
work within prisons for the upkeep of correctional
facilities; (2) production of goods and services in
state-owned prison industries or “correctional
industries” for sale to other state agencies; (3) public
works assignments or “community work crews,”
through which states, municipalities, and nonprofit
organizations contract with state departments of
corrections to use the labor of workers for a variety of
public works projects; (4) work for private industries
for production of goods and services sold to the
general public; (5) work conducted as a condition of
sentencing or as part of a “work-release” program;
and (6) agricultural work, which cuts across several
of these categories. Figure 1 notes the estimated
breakdown of the types of labor incarcerated people
engage in, based on available data on the distribution
of work assignments in prisons nationwide.
FIGURE 1:

Types of prison labor by category
Maintenance labor
80.0%

Public works
assignments: 8.0%
State-owned prison
industries: 6.5%
Work-release programs: 2.0%
Agriculture: 2.2%
Private Industries: 0.6%
Sources: Bureau of Justice Statistics and National Correctional Industries Association214

Prison maintenance work, state-owned prison
industries work, public works assignments, and work
for private industries are discussed in more detail
in the subsequent section of this report titled “Who
Benefits from Prison Labor.”

Captive Labor

27

Maintenance work, which accounts for the vast
majority—more than 80 percent—of prison jobs, is
run by the department of corrections and goes
toward keeping the facilities running.215 Assignments
include custodial services, laundry, food services,
administrative work, and grounds keeping. Some jobs
are not just menial but also futile, like being told to
cut grass with dull blades or to push a mop around on
surface that has already been cleaned.216 Other jobs
provide essential services to prisons. In Michigan,
for example, incarcerated people work as carpenters,
electricians, and plumbers.217 A plumber, designated
a skilled laborer, is paid between $1.24 and $1.77
a day.218 Outside of prison, a plumber in Michigan
makes, on average, $25.70 an hour.219
More than 95 percent of public prisons and nearly 90
percent of private prisons have work programs that
employ incarcerated people to support and maintain
the facilities where they are incarcerated (see Table
2).220 More than 80 percent of incarcerated workers
in state and federal prisons who were surveyed by the
Bureau of Justice Statistics in 2016 reported working
in jobs that served to maintain the prisons where they
are incarcerated and provide essential services that
keep these prisons running.221 This category included
30 percent of all incarcerated workers performing
general janitorial duties, nearly 20 percent working
in food preparation or kitchen duties, 8.5 percent
providing grounds maintenance, 6.6 percent in
maintenance or repair, 4.5 percent working in
laundry, and 14.1 percent performing essential
services by working in prison hospitals or infirmaries,
libraries, stockrooms, stores, and barber shops
(see Table 1).222 Because some of these Bureau of
Justice Statistics survey categories likely encompass
a proportionately small percentage of workers
engaged in work outside the prison on public works
assignments, such as in forestry, groundskeeping,
maintenance, or road maintenance, we estimate that
the percentage of incarcerated people working to
maintain the prisons is somewhat lower than their
sum of 86.1 percent but certainly above 80 percent.

TABLE 1

Type of work assignments reported by
incarcerated workers
General janitorial duties (cleaning, orderly,
sweeping)

29.9%

Food preparation or kitchen duties (kitchen,
bakery, butchery, etc.)

19.6%

Other services such as library, stockroom, store,
office help, recreation, sew shop, barber or beauty
shop, etc.

14.1%

Grounds or road maintenance

8.5%

Goods production / industries / contract services
(telemarketing, tag shop, print shop, etc.)

7.3%

Maintenance or repair / construction

6.6%

Laundry

4.5%

Hospital, infirmary, or other medical services

2.9%

Farming, forestry, ranching

2.2%

Other

7.3%

Note: Survey respondents could check multiple work assignments
Source: ACLU analysis of Bureau of Justice Statistics Survey of Prison Inmates, United States,
2016 (data published September 2021)223

Only 7.3 percent of survey respondents reported
working in state and private prison industries,
goods production, and contract services jobs that
Photo © AP Photo/The Jackson Citizen Patriot, Nick Dentamaro

Maintenance Work

Incarcerated workers carry loads of cardboard to recycling bins at Camp
Waterloo, a deteriorating former state prison. Prison work crews cleared trash
and scrap metal from the abandoned prison facility in Waterloo, Michigan.

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ACLU Research Report

constitute work in three other categories of prison
work: work in state-owned prison industries, work
for private industries, and a small fraction of the
work performed through work-release programs.
Another 7.3 percent reported engaging in undefined
“other” work, which likely includes some public work
assignments and work-release jobs.

In the other 47 states, the program is either operated
solely by the state department of corrections or by a
division of the corrections department functioning
as a semiautonomous agency.

State-Owned Prison Industries
State-owned prison industries, which constitute
a second type of prison labor program that accounts
for about 6.5 percent of prison jobs, employ 51,569
incarcerated individuals in state-owned corporations
that produce goods, services and commodities sold to
other government agencies as of 2021,224 down from
70,507 in 2011225 and 91,043 in 2008.226 According
to the National Correctional Industries Association,
the value of saleable goods and services produced by
incarcerated workers in prison industries programs
nationwide totaled $2.09 billion in 2021.227
The federal government and all states except Alaska
operate their own correctional industries.229 Of
the 49 states with prison industries programs,
Mississippi and Florida operate their programs
through a nonprofit prison industries corporation
working with the state department of corrections.230

These industries are involved in a variety of
production and services, such as sign and license
plate manufacturing, meat and milk processing,
optical and dental laboratories, and recycling
and metal shops.231 The federal industry program,
known as UNICOR, likewise advertises an extensive
product list.232 A state agency that needs office chairs
can contract with a prison to produce them. An office
park with an asbestos problem can contract with a
prison to remove it. A new governor can contract
with a prison to print thousands of new letterheads.233
Half of public prisons offer work in prison
industries.234 Among private prisons, where the work
on offer is almost entirely in prison maintenance,
only 15.5 percent offer prison industries work
programs.235 The National Correctional Industries
Association touts the program as largely self-funded,
reporting that 86 percent of prison industries
programs are “operating solely from the revenue
generated from agricultural and manufactured
products and services.”236

TABLE 2

Public and private confinement facilities and prisoners, by work programs available in facility,
midyear 2019
Public
Facilities

Private
Prisoners

Facilities

Prisoners

Work Program

Number

Percent

Number

Percent

Number

Percent

Number

Percent

Any

1,058

98.7%

1,200,367

99.7%

52

89.7%

60,854

99.3%

Maintenance/ facilities
support services

1,022

95.2%

1,176,098

97.6%

52

89.7%

60,854

99.3%

Prison industries

536

50.0%

789,541

65.5%

9

15.5%

11,187

18.3%

Public works
assignments

474

44.2%

550,529

45.7%

5

8.6%

7,105

11.6%

Farming/agriculture

294

27.4%

341,839

28.4%

5

8.6%

5,456

8.9%

Note: Details do not sum to totals because facilities could report more than one work program.
Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, Census of State and Federal Adult Correctional Facilities, 2019 (published November 2021)228

Captive Labor

29

Public Works Assignments
A third category of prison labor is public works
assignments, sometimes referred to as “community
work crews,” for the benefit of state, municipal,
and local government agencies and occasionally
nonprofit organizations. States and municipalities
contract with state departments of corrections to
use the labor of incarcerated workers for a variety
of public works projects, mostly off prison grounds.
Incarcerated workers maintain cemeteries, school
grounds, fairgrounds, and public parks; do road work;
construct buildings; clean government offices; clean
up landfills and hazardous spills; undertake forestry
work in state-owned forests; and treat sewage. In
some states, including Arkansas,237 Florida,238
Georgia,239 Mississippi,240 South Carolina,241 and
Texas,242 these workers are not paid at all for their
work.
Our research found that at least 41 state departments
of correction have public works programs that employ
incarcerated workers.243 About 44 percent of public
prisons and 8.6 percent of private prisons nationwide
assign incarcerated workers to work on public works
assignments outside the prison.244 Although the
most recent Bureau of Justice Statistics survey of
prisoners does not include disaggregated data on
incarcerated workers assigned to public works, public
works constituted 8 percent of all state prisoners’
work assignments at the time of the previous survey
in 2004 (federal prisons do not have these public
works programs).245 As of 2005, the last year for
which the Bureau of Justice Statistics published
such data disaggregated by region, over half of the
prisons with public works programs were located in
the South.246
In Florida, for instance, about 3,500 unpaid
incarcerated workers work on state road crews
and “community work squads,” required to provide
labor for hundreds of state and municipal agencies
and dozens of state colleges and nonprofits.247 In
North Carolina, nearly 1,000 incarcerated workers
work on road squads for the state Department of
Transportation and on manual labor jobs for state
and local government agencies.248 These contracted
services include patching potholes, clearing

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ACLU Research Report

rights-of-way, and picking up litter on state roads;
janitorial services; cleaning parks and streets;
working for county schools; undertaking construction,
cleaning, and yard work for the Department of Social
Services; and refurbishing restrooms and picnic
areas for the Department of Agriculture.249
In Washington State, about 1,000 people work in
similar community work programs through which
incarcerated workers perform work in farming,
stream clean-up, land clearance, and development
of parks and recreation areas.250 In Arizona, 1,083
incarcerated people work on public works crews for
the Department of Transportation and other state,
local, and county entities through intergovernmental
agreements with the corrections department.251
These workers logged more than 1.8 million hours
of work for the community during fiscal year
2020.252 In Mississippi, each state prison provides
incarcerated workers’ labor for free to local towns
and municipalities.253 Workers incarcerated at
Mississippi State Penitentiary provide more than
100,000 hours of free labor each year to state agencies
and adjacent municipalities and counties.254 In
Arkansas, unpaid incarcerated workers on “inmate
work crews” logged nearly half a million hours in
regional maintenance alone in 2020.255 These workers
filled sandbags, dug ditches, cleaned highways and
parks, and assisted with clean-up from severe storms
and demolition of buildings.
Through such programs, incarcerated workers
also perform critical work preparing for and
responding to natural disasters and emergencies,
including sandbagging, supporting evacuations,
clearing debris, and assisting with recovery
and reconstruction after hurricanes, tornadoes,
mudslides, or floods.256 For example, in Florida,
hundreds of unpaid incarcerated workers were
tasked with picking up fallen trees and other debris
after Hurricane Irma, and in Texas, hundreds of
unpaid incarcerated workers filled sandbags in
preparation for Hurricane Harvey, forced to work
in the storm’s path while people outside prisons
were evacuated.257 Incarcerated firefighters also
fight wildfires in Arizona, California, Colorado,
Georgia, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina,

Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Washington,
and Wyoming. For instance, Georgia’s incarcerated
firefighter unit responds to over 3,000 calls annually,
assisting with wildfires, structural fires, and motor
vehicle accidents—for zero pay.258 Indiana turned to
incarcerated workers during an avian flu outbreak,
tasking them with culling and disposing of infected
chickens.259
Private Industries
A fourth category of prison labor is work for private
industries through PIECP, which allows private
companies to produce goods and services using
prison labor.260 There are several employment models
within this category. Some incarcerated people work
directly for the private company while others are
employed by the prison and are assigned (essentially
contracted out) to the company.261 PIECP employs
the smallest number—only 4,860 workers, or less
than 1 percent—of incarcerated people of any prison
labor program.262 Yet it is the most coveted prison
labor program among incarcerated individuals
because it generally provides higher wages—by law,
prevailing wages—and typically includes job training
in more marketable skills.263 However, incarcerated
workers in the PIECP program ultimately receive a
small fraction of these wages, as their earnings may
be deducted by up to 80 percent for room and board,
taxes (such as federal, state, and Federal Insurance
Contributions Act), family support, and victim
compensation or assistance.264 The PIECP program
and the companies that use incarcerated labor are
discussed in more detail in the subsequent subsection
of this report on the private sector, located in the
section titled “Who Benefits from Prison Labor.”
Work-Release Programs and Restitution
Centers
A fifth category of prison labor is work carried out
by incarcerated people being held in “restitution
centers,” as well as those taking part in “workrelease” programs provided by the prison, jail, or
community facility where they are confined. In both
instances, workers leave correctional facilities to

In 2021, incarcerated
workers employed
in prison industries
programs produced
more than $2 billion
worth of goods and
services.
Source: National Correctional Industries Association

work at a place of employment and return to the
facility when their shift is complete. These programs
cover only a small minority of incarcerated workers—
around 2 percent.265 Because these programs
sometimes involve incarceration at correctional
facilities other than prisons, this report does not
attempt to give an extensive description and analysis
of them, but it does reference them where relevant.
As of 2019, there were 451 correctional facilities
nationwide (27 percent of all correctional facilities)
whose main function is work release and community
corrections; this number does not include state
prisons that operate work-release programs as well.266
There is wide variation in how these types of
institutions and programs manifest across states267—
including in terms of who manages them, which
individuals are eligible, the structure of work
assignments, and wage deduction policies—but
there are certain features that tend to characterize
them both.268 Restitution centers and work-release
programs alike involve work conducted outside of the
prison by mostly those convicted of misdemeanors
but also people convicted of low-level felonies as
well. Workers are generally paid a wage—although
not always—and these wages are often collected by
the state, county, or private facility where they are
housed.269 The facility then deducts rent, restitution,
court fines and fees, child support, and other costs
before the worker ever sees the wages.270

Captive Labor

31

Mississippi is the only state that still uses restitution
centers to lock people up for an indefinite period of
time while they work for private employers to earn
money to pay off court-ordered debts.276 Hundreds
of people a year are sentenced to be confined in
Mississippi’s restitution centers, where they are
required to stay until they pay off court fees, fines,
and restitution. Workers are required to pay for
room and board, transportation to their jobs, and
medical care costs. They work slaughtering chickens,
cutting catfish at processing plants, at Popeyes and
McDonald’s franchises, and for auto mechanic shops,
furniture companies, and meatpacking plants.277

people incarcerated there. Others engage in farming
or ranching work for prison industries programs or
for private corporations through PIECP programs
to produce livestock, crops, and other agricultural
products for sale. Twenty-seven percent of public
prisons and nearly 9 percent of private prisons
have work programs in farming and agriculture.278
Although only 2.2 percent of incarcerated workers are
engaged in agricultural work in prisons nationwide,
in some states, agricultural work constitutes a
greater percentage of work assignments, such as
in Arkansas, where 17 percent of job assignments
for incarcerated people were in agricultural work in
2021.279
In states such as Arkansas, Florida, Georgia,
Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina,
and Texas, incarcerated workers work on penal
plantations or prison farms, discussed in more
detail in the next section of this report. Incarcerated
workers are also employed in agricultural work
through prison industries programs in states
including Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida,

Photo © AP Photo/Lake Charles American Press, Karen Wink

Restitution centers and work-release programs can be
distinguished, in most cases, by how individuals end
up working there. Restitution centers are generally
discussed at the initial sentencing stage as an
alternative to jail or prison or following supervision
revocation (generally for failure to pay or absconding
violations),271 while work-release programs tend to
become relevant near, or at the end of, an already
incarcerated person’s sentence.272 People often are
assigned to work release for a transitional period
when they are nearing the end of their sentence.
But this is not always the case; some work-release
programs function like traditional restitution centers
in that they are used as an alternative to jail or prison
and confine incarcerated individuals to a corrections
facility for a set term (usually equal to the length of
the sentence they would have received had they been
sent to jail or prison).273 Some work-release programs
may even allow individuals to reside at home, as
opposed to being confined in a corrections facility, as
long as they continue to report to work each day.274
Similarly, restitution centers in some cases function
like traditional work-release programs in that they
are sometimes made available to those nearing (or
at the end of) their jail or prison sentence who are in
need of transitional services.275

Agricultural Work
Agricultural work fits within multiple categories
of prison labor. Some incarcerated workers engage
in field labor for the maintenance of the prison,
cultivating and harvesting crops to be eaten by the

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ACLU Research Report

Corrections officers oversee incarcerated agricultural workers working in the
fields at C. Paul Phelps Correctional Center in DeQuincy, Louisiana.

Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Montana, Oklahoma,
and Washington.
In Georgia, about 5,000 incarcerated workers were
employed in the Georgia Correctional Industries’
Food and Farm Operations division as of 2015, the
most recent year for which data is available.280
More than 300 of these incarcerated workers are
employed each year in the agribusiness program.281
Incarcerated workers in the farm services and
agribusiness programs labor unpaid on six prison
farms totaling nearly 14,000 acres of land.282 These
workers farm crops and hold jobs in canning and meat
processing plants, cattle and swine operations, milk
and egg production, feed and grits mills, and fresh
vegetable processing.283 In addition to the production
of profitable farm-grown commodities, these workers
produce over 40 percent of the ingredients used in
Georgia state prisons’ food service operations.284

Farmers of America, which markets one-third of the
milk sold in the United States, purchases milk from
correctional industries.

The California Prison Industry Authority made
$27.96 million from its agriculture sector in fiscal
year 2020–21, revenues generated by incarcerated
workers who produced crops, poultry, dairy, and
eggs.285 Over a hundred incarcerated workers
are employed in Florida’s Prison Rehabilitative
Industries and Diversified Enterprises (PRIDE)
prison industries program manufacturing food
products.286 Oklahoma Department of Corrections’
Agri-Services division employs about 275
incarcerated workers at prisons across the state,
managing cattle, working at a meat processing center
and a dairy/milk processing facility, and producing
crops at multiple farms encompassing more than
19,000 acres.287
Some agricultural work is for private corporations.
For example, incarcerated workers cultivate and
harvest alfalfa, rye, wheat, and triticale for the
Barnum Land and Cattle of California.288 In Idaho,
incarcerated workers process potatoes, frozen onions,
and peppers for Dickinson Frozen Foods through
the Idaho Correctional Industries Agricultural
Program.289 In Arizona, Hickman’s Family Farms—
the fourth-largest U.S. egg producer—has contracted
with Arizona Correctional Industries to employ
incarcerated workers for over 20 years. Dairy

Captive Labor

33

Penal
Plantations
In Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky,
Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, and
Texas, incarcerated workers are tasked with
agricultural work on penal plantations or prison
farms.290 These penal plantations have direct
roots in the Black chattel slavery of the South
and some are situated on land that was originally
the site of slave plantations. At some of these
prisons, incarcerated workers today produce
some of the same crops that were grown by
enslaved people on the same land less than 160
years earlier.291
For example, at the Louisiana State Penitentiary,
known as Angola, the nation’s largest maximumsecurity prison situated on 18,000 acres of land
that was originally the site of slave plantations,

incarcerated workers work field crops including
cotton, corn, soybeans, and sugarcane for only
two cents an hour.292 Every person incarcerated
in Angola, 74 percent of whom are Black293—and
most incarcerated across Louisiana—starts work
in the fields, and switching jobs is difficult.294
Field laborers work with limited access to water,
minimal rest, and no restroom facilities, under
the supervision of armed correctional officers
on horseback.
Workers report being placed in solitary
confinement if they are unwilling or unable
to perform work in the fields, or if they do not
work fast enough.295 One incarcerated worker in
Louisiana reported, “In the field each inmate is
given a number to a row of crops to be cultivated
or pulled and bagged which is about a half mile.
The gun guard on the horse said she wanted 30
sacks of greens and was keeping count. I was
on sack 23 before the specified time and was
transported to segregation.”296
In Arkansas, about 3,000 incarcerated workers
labor on 20,344 agricultural acres spread across

Photo © AP/Gerald Herbert

Corrections officers
ride horses as
incarcerated workers
return from farm work
detail at the Louisiana
State Penitentiary in
Angola, Louisiana.

Captive Labor

34

Photo © Andrew Lichtenstein/ Corbis via Getty Images

management; and work in egg production,
picking through 100,000 eggs a day.300 The
prison is situated on 11,347 acres of farm land
that was the site of part of the Cummins and
Maple Grove slave plantations.301

Workers incarcerated at North Carolina's Roanoke River
Correctional Institution, located on the site of the former
Caledonia plantation, harvest crops on a prison farm
outside of Tillery, North Carolina.

five prisons unpaid, with no limit to their daily
hours, and without scheduled, guaranteed
breaks.297 Many of these workers are assigned to
field work on the “hoe squad,” digging ditches,
pulling weeds, clearing land, and picking crops
while watched by correctional officers on
horseback.298 Incarcerated workers receive no
pay for their work, which generates millions of
dollars per year for the state. In fiscal year 2019,
revenue from sales of the crops and livestock
produced by incarcerated workers in Arkansas
to outside vendors totaled more than $4.4
million (down from almost $7 million the year
before), and incarcerated workers generated
an additional $7.5 million in food consumed by
incarcerated people that year.299
At Cummins Unit, a maximum-security state
prison in Arkansas that was designed as a
prison for Black men and where the population
today is disproportionately Black, incarcerated
people work in the fields cultivating and
picking row and vegetable crops including
corn, soybeans, rice, wheat, and oats; work
in slaughterhouses, poultry, and swine

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ACLU Research Report

In Mississippi, incarcerated workers plant,
harvest, and process crops including soybeans,
corn, blueberries, pecans, tomatoes, turnip
greens, and field peas. The farming work
takes place at Mississippi State Penitentiary
(known as Parchman Farm) in Parchman, and
South Mississippi Correctional Institution
in Leakesville. Parchman was built in the
early 20th century and modeled after
antebellum slave plantations; the governor
of Mississippi at the time the prison opened
referred to it as running “like an effective slave
plantation.”302 Today it is located on 18,000
acres and leases an additional nearly 8,000
acres for its agricultural work, and 67 percent
of the incarcerated population is Black.303
Incarcerated workers at Parchman supply
food to Parchman, two other state prisons, 10
community work centers, and four restitution
centers.304 While the Mississippi Department
of Corrections touts the farming operations
as a way to feed prisoners and reduce food
costs, more than 98 percent of the total acreage
farmed by incarcerated workers is devoted to
cash crops to sell for a profit, not vegetables
for consumption. The revenue generated
by cash crops such as soybeans and field
corn produced by incarcerated workers in
Mississippi totaled $1.06 million in fiscal year
2020, over 1 million dollars more than the value
of vegetables farmed and consumed by people
incarcerated in Mississippi prisons, which
totaled $33,255 that same year.305
The former commissioner of the Mississippi
Department of Corrections noted that the
Mississippi Prison Agricultural Enterprises
(MPAE) program’s cost savings is critical to
support the rising prison and jail population—
in a state that now has the second highest

At North Carolina’s Roanoke River Correctional
Institution (formerly known as Caledonia
Correctional), located on 7,500 acres on the site
of the former Caledonia plantation, incarcerated
workers cultivate row crops such as corn,
wheat, and soybeans; vegetables including
sweet corn, collard greens, sweet potatoes,
squash, cucumbers, and melons; and manage
cattle and chickens.308 Today, incarcerated
workers produce some of the same crops that
were grown by enslaved people on the same
land.309 Incarcerated workers also work in the
prison cannery to can crops grown on the farm
to supply prison kitchens across the state.
Roanoke River Correctional Institution is the
largest prison farm in the state; others include
Dan River Prison Work Farm and Tyrrell Prison
Work Farm, which were constructed by work
crews of incarcerated workers in the late 1990s.
Between 1899 and 1918, the state of Texas
bought 10 plantations and began running them
as prisons.310 A number of the prison farms
still operating today were previously the sites
of plantations, including Memorial Unit state
prison (formerly known as Darrington Unit, the
site of the Darrington plantation), W. F. Ramsey
Unit (formerly the Ramsey Prison Farm, located
on the site of five former plantations), Clemens
Unit (formerly the site of two plantations),
Wayne Scott Unit (formerly the location of
the Retrieve plantation), J. Dayle Wainwright
Unit (formerly the Eastham Unit, the site of
a plantation), and Beauford H. Jester Unit
(formerly known as the Jester State Prison Farm

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ACLU Research Report

Photo © AP/Gerald Herbert

incarceration rate in the country due to
dramatic increase in its rates of imprisonment
in the last 40 years.306 “With a nearly $30
million deficit this fiscal year because of
inmate growth, two federal court orders and
critical capital improvement needs, every dime
counts,” then-Commissioner Christopher
B. Epps told the Mississippi Link newspaper,
“Standing programs like MPAE are critical to our
savings.’”307

An incarcerated worker pushes a bin of greens inside a
processing plant at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in
Angola, Louisiana.

and the Harlem Prison Farm, located on the
site of several plantations including the Harlem
plantation).
Today, more than 2,100 incarcerated workers
from 24 prisons work without pay at Texas state
prison farms spanning 139,000 acres.311 In
2019, incarcerated workers laboring on prison
farms in Texas produced 7.8 million pounds
of vegetables; processed 4 million dozen eggs
and more than 23 million pounds of meat; and
harvested 69.5 million pounds of cotton, grains
and grasses.312 They also canned vegetables and
tended cattle, swine, laying hens, and horses.313
A state audit of the Texas Department of
Criminal Justice’s agribusiness program found
that 46 percent of the agricultural products
produced by incarcerated workers cost more to
grow than they are worth, and the state could
have saved millions by simply buying them.314
Despite losses in field crops and canning,
the prison system’s agricultural operations
generated $160.3 million in cost savings over
a five-year period, in part because of highly
profitable beef and pork processing work
performed by incarcerated workers.315

The chief beneficiaries of prison labor are (1) the
prison system itself; (2) state, local, and federal
governments; and (3) private sector companies which
can exploit a captive labor force that has much to
lose and little to expect. As the prison population has
ballooned over time, so have available prison workers.
This increase has enabled a parallel growth in
commodities and services produced by incarcerated
people. In the early 20th century, the value of
commodities produced by incarcerated workers was
estimated to be around $650 million.316 In 2021, the
value of goods, services, and commodities produced
by the 51,569 incarcerated workers employed in
prison industries programs—who represent only
about 6.5 percent of all incarcerated workers—totaled
over $2 billion.317 The precise value of incarcerated
workers’ labor to maintain the very prisons that
confine them—work such as food preparation,
maintenance, laundry, and cleaning—is unknown
but totals vastly more. In 2004, the value of services
provided by incarcerated workers laboring to
maintain and operate the prisons that confine them
was conservatively estimated to be $9 billion.318 In
2017, Steven Prator, a Louisiana sheriff opposing new
sentencing and parole laws made the operating logic
clear: Incarcerated laborers are a “necessary evil to
keep the [prison] doors open.”319

The Prison System
Daniel Tapia was incarcerated in Louisiana for
decades. In the mornings, he helped with prison
upkeep, and in the afternoons, he serviced the local
police force’s fleet of vehicles.320 Joel Jackson spent
time in Illinois’ prisons, where he sliced meat for

Photo © AP/Ocala Star-Banner, Alan Youngblood

Who Benefits from
Prison Labor

An incarcerated worker stirs a vat of rice and beans at the Marion County Jail
in Ocala, Florida.

prison lunches.321 And Kelly Savage was incarcerated
in California, where she worked cleaning the prison
yard and in the prison kitchen where she suffered
several burns to her hands and arms.322 Across the
country, incarcerated people like Tapia, Jackson,
and Savage work day in and day out to maintain the
prisons that incarcerate them.
Of the nation’s roughly 800,000 incarcerated
laborers, more than 80 percent perform low-skilled
maintenance labor for the facilities in which they
are held.323 This maintenance labor allows prisons
to significantly offset their operating costs. When

Captive Labor

37

“We are saving [the
prisons] millions of
dollars and getting paid
pennies in return or an
extra piece of meat.
All the jobs we are
doing in prison are not
really benefiting us; it
is more benefitting the
prison system. I work a
job making $450 for a
whole year. If they were
to pay a civilian for the
same job that would
be his pay for just one
week.”
—Latashia Millender, incarcerated at Centralia
Correctional Center, IL

incarcerated people serve as janitors, plumbers,
electricians, and food servers—often involuntarily
and typically for little or no pay—facilities are spared
hiring outside market-rate laborers.324 According to
the Bureau of Justice Statistics, state governments
spend nearly $50 billion a year to keep over 1 million
people in prisons (the United States spends over
$81 billion to run its corrections system—including
prisons, jails, parole, and probation—that keeps
nearly 2 million people behind bars).325 More than
two-thirds (68 percent) of state prison expenditures
is spent on wages and benefits for the public sector

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ACLU Research Report

staff who operate prisons and jails.326 Payroll for state
correctional staff alone totals over $2 billion each
month.327
Due to the explosive growth of the prison population
since 1970, and despite a recent slight decline in
incarceration rates in some states, U.S. prisons house
more incarcerated people than they are designed to
hold.328 Thus, prisons struggling to operate on their
state-provided budgets rely on incarcerated laborers
to perform essential maintenance tasks, like cleaning
prison yards and servicing police cars, to offset
budget shortfalls.329 This saves state governments
billions of dollars a year in prison upkeep. One
conservative 2004 estimate placed the nationwide
value of these cost-saving services at about $9
billion.330 Even now, there is no way to know exactly
how much value is generated by prison labor given
the lack of a centralized data collection system, which
would increase transparency and accountability in
this regard.
According to some experts, the use of prison labor
not only saves correctional systems money but is
what allows prisons to perpetuate themselves.331
The more prisons use incarcerated labor, the more
the prison system can expand without having to
increase budgetary allocations from state and local
governments. According to Bruce Reilly, a prison
reform advocate and formerly incarcerated worker,
prisons are “never going to get rid of maintenance
jobs, or cooking [jobs]” because “the budgets don’t
work otherwise.”332
Incarcerated people not only replace workers needed
for typically lower-paid maintenance work, but they
also perform work that is typically well remunerated,
saving prisons even more money.
Many prisons, for example, employ their incarcerated
workforce as auto mechanics and plumbers. Outside
of prison, such work typically pays over $20 an hour,333
but in prison, it pays between $0 and $1.24 an hour.334
This fact is well known by incarcerated workers
and their families. Latashia Millender, who is
incarcerated at Centralia Correctional Center in
Illinois, noted:

“You have people risking their lives working
in the conditions they are working in, and
the pay is not good and there is no training
being provided. We are saving [the prisons]
millions of dollars and getting paid pennies
in return or an extra piece of meat. All the
jobs we are doing in prison are not really
benefiting us; it is more benefitting the prison
system. I work a job making $450 for a whole
year. If they were to pay a civilian for the
same job that would be his pay for just one
week.”335

State, Local, and Federal
Governments
Prison labor not only saves federal and state
governments money by funding their bloated prison
systems, it also provides a cheap and compliant
labor force in correctional industries, the stateowned businesses that produce goods sold to
other state entities. Many states require all state
agencies, political units, and public institutions to
purchase manufactured goods, including furniture,
cleaning supplies, and uniforms, from their state

Photo © Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Incarcerated workers debone
turkeys at the meat plant in the
Maryland Correctional Institution
in Hagerstown, Maryland.

correctional industries.336 In fiscal year 2020 alone,
Illinois’ correctional industries program sold over
$33.5 million worth of goods and services from
incarcerated workers to its own state agencies,
state universities, and local governments,337 while
California’s correctional industries program sold
over $191 million in manufactured goods, services,
and agricultural products produced by incarcerated
workers in fiscal year 2020–21.338 Table 3 shows the
state correctional industries programs with the
highest net sales for fiscal year 2019, the most recent
data we were able to obtain for all states.
Correctional industries programs are not limited
to manufacturing, as states rely on incarcerated
workers to provide a variety of services, such as data
entry, repairing state-owned vehicles, and washing
laundry for public hospitals and universities. For
example, people incarcerated in Oregon help staff the
state’s DMV call center, fielding questions directed
towards the department.340
Foods produced by incarcerated workers in
correctional industries’ agricultural and food
processing programs are also sold to state hospitals,
state-run psychiatric hospitals, veterans’ homes, and
residential treatment programs.341 For instance, the

Captive Labor

39

TABLE 3

materials.347 Like at the state level, federal agencies
are required to purchase certain products from
UNICOR.348 UNICOR reported $404 million in net
sales in fiscal year 2021.349

State correctional industries programs,
ranking by net sales, fiscal year 2019
Ranking

State

Net Sales

1

California*

$249,961,931

2

Washington*

$113,260,594

3

North Carolina

$92,500,000

4

Pennsylvania*

$80,688,000

5

Texas

$76,745,560

6

Florida

$69,524,370

7

Colorado*

$68,871,011

8

New York

$63,557,000

9

Maryland

$52,457,137

10

Arizona

$47,974,027

Many of UNICOR’s products are attractive to
private purchasers as well, given that UNICOR is
able to keep costs down by paying its incarcerated
employees a rate exceptionally below minimum
wage. Wages for these various manufacturing jobs
or services range from $0.23 to $1.15 per hour.350
UNICOR explicitly advertises to private companies,
telling them that they can benefit from the “Made in
the USA marketing advantage” while eliminating the
“waste and instability caused by offshore supply chain
interruptions and unstable labor.”351 As for services,
UNICOR maintains call centers that it outsources
to private companies. The program’s website urges
these corporations to “imagine…all the benefits of
domestic outsourcing at offshore prices. It’s the best
kept secret in outsourcing!”352

*States that have canteen or commissary operations as part of
their correctional industries programs.
Source: National Correctional Industries Association (NCIA)339

food factories that employ incarcerated workers in
California sell food products to veterans’ homes and
state hospitals, while Montana’s prison industries
program’s food factories produce meals for the state
psychiatric hospital. New Jersey’s prison bakery
sells doughnuts, cupcakes, and hot dog rolls to
government agencies and public schools.342

The federal government operates its own Federal
Prison Industries program known as UNICOR,
which functions as a wholly owned corporation of
the U.S. government that employed 16,315 federally
incarcerated people in fiscal year 2021 to produce
goods and services.346 The program has seven areas
of manufacturing carried out by people incarcerated
in the federal system: metals, wires and plastics,
vehicular repair/manufacturing, data and document
conversion services, electronics, woods, and fabrics/

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ACLU Research Report

Photo © AP/Dirk Lammers

Crucially, these state-level “correctional industries”
programs employ incarcerated people nationwide at
a small fraction of the wages they would pay a regular
employee. Oregon’s DMV center pays its incarcerated
workers $4 to $6 a day,343 compared to the average pay
of $80 a day for non-incarcerated employees doing
the same job. An incarcerated worker in Louisiana
making mattresses earns about 20 cents an hour,344
and another making dorm furniture in Arkansas is
paid nothing at all.345

Apart from correctional industries, state and
local governments also rely on unpaid and lowpaid incarcerated workers for a variety of public

An incarcerated worker working in the Pheasantland Industries license plate
shop catches a plate coming off the production line in the South Dakota
Penitentiary in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

works projects. Incarcerated people work for state
and local agencies, nonprofit organizations, and
the community at large—while receiving hardly
any compensation or recognition. For example, in
Georgia, nearly one-third of counties rely on the
labor of unpaid incarcerated firefighters; in some
of these communities, incarcerated workers are the
sole fire protection and emergency medical response
units in the entire area, responding to motor vehicle
accidents, calls for medical assistance, and fires.353 In
New York, incarcerated workers remove hazardous
materials for state agencies and local governments,
including asbestos, lead paint, mold, and bird feces.
The New York State Department of Corrections
and Community Supervision has drawn in over
$7.5 million selling abatement services provided by
incarcerated workers since 2017.354
State and local governments derive significant
financial benefits from using prison workers in
this way. For instance, the Florida Department of
Corrections estimates the value of the labor of the
3,500 unpaid incarcerated workers working on state
road crews and community work squads to be about
$147.5 million over a five-year period.355 “There’s
no way we can take care of our facilities, our roads,
our ditches, if we didn’t have inmate labor,” Warren
Yeager, a former Gulf County, Florida, commissioner
told the Florida Times-Union.356 State governments
also rely on incarcerated workers as a low-wage
labor force to respond to a variety of disasters and
emergencies throughout the country.357 At least
30 states explicitly include incarcerated workers
as a labor resource in their state-level emergency
operations plans.358

The Private Sector
Montrell Carmouche still dreams about Cancun. The
white beaches, the coral reefs, and the fascinating
history of the Mayan empire whose ancient stories
of grandeur and conquest are told by the pyramids
lining the lush jungle. Carmouche spent their days
weaving stories of trips to this Mexican paradise,
hoping that the listener at the other end of the phone
would buy a vacation package to experience this bliss

for themselves. A key detail: Carmouche had never
been to Cancun.359
Instead, they made these calls from within a prison
call center, instructed to make hundreds of calls
a week to unsuspecting customers on behalf of a
private company that contracted with Carmouche’s
employer to use incarcerated labor to sell vacation
packages over the phone. All that Carmouche knew
about Cancun had come from pictures, pamphlets, or
what they dubbed “story time”—sessions designed to
get the workers “in a trance” through detailed stories
of a tropical paradise many of them would never see
themselves. If a customer ever asked Carmouche who
they were or if they had actually travelled to Cancun,
Carmouche was instructed to lie. Carmouche’s
employer made a point to ensure customers never
knew that the person whom they were talking to
was behind bars. Carmouche sold thousand-dollar
dream vacations but was paid no wage except for a $6
commission per sale.360
Private companies benefit from prison labor by
purchasing goods and services through correctional
industries for a lower cost than they would pay in the
private market. Colorado Correctional Industries,
for example, sold goods and services to around 100
private companies, which generated more than
$6.2 million in revenue for the state correctional
industries program in 2020.361 Utah Correctional
Industries sold goods and services to almost a
thousand private companies, including such major
corporations as 3M Company, Allstate Insurance
Company, American Apparel, American Express,
Apple Inc., AT&T Mobility, Costco, Enterprise Renta-Car, FedEx, Frito Lay Inc., Fujifilm North America,
Hertz Corporation, Hewlett-Packard, Hickory Farms,
Infiniti Motor Company, Little Caesars Enterprises,
Lowe’s, KFC, OfficeMax, Pepsi-Co, Procter & Gamble,
Sara Lee Corporation, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Xerox
Corporation.362
These products are then sold by private companies
to consumers who may be unaware they originated
with prison labor. Agricultural products provide an
instructive example. Colorado’s and South Carolina’s
prison industries programs sell milk produced by
incarcerated workers employed in prison dairies to

Captive Labor

41

In Louisiana, Louis Dreyfus Commodities, a
commodities trader, purchased $2.4 million worth of
corn and soybeans produced by incarcerated workers
employed in the state prison industries program
from 2017 to 2020, while numerous livestock auction
companies purchased at least $5 million worth of
livestock raised by workers incarcerated in Louisiana
prisons during that same time period.365 The livestock
sold at auction on the open market later finds its way
as meat sold to consumers with no indication that
it originated with the labor of incarcerated workers.
Leprino Foods Company, which supplies mozzarella
to Domino’s Pizza, Papa John’s, and Pizza Hut,
purchased more than 600 tons of buffalo milk from
2017 and 2020 produced by incarcerated people
working in Colorado Correctional Industries.366
Colorado Correctional Industries also reports that

Poultry workers cut and trim
chicken as it moves along a line.

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ACLU Research Report

its customers include Avis Budget Group and Hertz
Corporation.367
But the private sector’s involvement in prison labor
can be even more extensive. Arizona Correctional
Industries has a private labor contract program
that allows private companies headquartered in
Arizona to directly employ incarcerated workers
outside of the PIECP program. As of February
2022, 974 incarcerated people employed by Arizona
Correctional Industries work for outside employers
through labor contracts.368 Workers in these nonPIECP programs are required to make a minimum
wage of $2 per hour, but the average wage is typically
$3 to $4 per hour—far less than the prevailing wage
legally required by the PIECP program.369
Arizona Correctional Industries’ best customer
in fiscal year 2020 was Hickman’s Egg Ranch /
Hickman’s Family Farms, which paid more than
$7 million to the state prison industries program
that year for labor contracts to employ incarcerated
workers, outside the PIECP program, who were paid
$4.25 to $5.25 an hour to care for chickens, provide
farm maintenance, and package eggs.370 Hickman’s is
the fourth-largest U.S. egg producer, and its eggs are

Photo © National Chicken Council

Dairy Farmers of America, the conglomerate that
markets about 30 percent of the milk produced in
the United States.363 The two state prison industries
programs sold more than $10.5 million worth of
milk from 2017 to 2020 to Dairy Farmers of America,
which manufactures brands including Borden,
Breakstone, Plugrá, and T.G. Lee Dairy.364

Arizona Correctional
Industries’ best
customer in fiscal year
2020 was Hickman’s
Egg Ranch, which paid
more than $7 million
to the state prison
industries program that
year for labor contracts
to employ incarcerated
workers.
sold at grocery stores around the Southwest. Taylor
Farms, North America’s largest supplier of salads
and fresh-cut vegetables, paid over $2.2 million
to Arizona’s prison industries program for labor
contracts to employ incarcerated workers to cut
and package fruit and vegetables for the company.371
Taylor Farms supplies some of the nation’s biggest
fast food and grocery chains, including Chipotle,
Costco, Kroger, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Ralphs,
Safeway, Subway, Target, Walmart, and Whole
Foods Market.
Through the PIECP program—a program enabled
by the congressionally authorized exception to the
Ashurst-Sumners Act of 1935—private companies
can contract with correctional institutions to
employ prison workers to produce goods, either
at production workshops within prisons or offsite.
Today, 4,860 incarcerated workers nationwide are
employed in the PIECP program to produce goods
authorized for sale in interstate commerce on
behalf of private corporations.372 Although private
corporations participating in this program are
required to adhere to some minimal labor standards,

which include paying incarcerated workers the
“prevailing wage,” they enjoy significant benefits
and cost-savings from employing this captive labor
force.373
Some private companies participating in PIECP
have successfully avoided paying prevailing wages
by exploiting loopholes and employing a variety of
tricks. One tactic has been to divide incarcerated
workers into two groups: one which creates pieces of
a product and a second which assembles the pieces
(only the final assembly group is paid the prevailing
wage).374 Another tactic, refined by Florida’s PRIDE,
involved prolonging “training programs” to justify
paying incarcerated PIECP participants artificially
depressed wages instead of the prevailing wage.375
Incarcerated workers about to complete their PRIDE
training program on one piece of equipment were
moved to train on another piece of equipment at the
last moment to restart the process.376 None of these
companies, including PRIDE, has been charged
with violating the terms of the program, but their
practices illustrate how easy it is to squeeze profits
out of the program.
Another major cost-saving feature of PIECP labor
is not having to pay employee benefits. Direct
Trailer and Equipment Company, a Texas-based
manufacturer of flatbed trucks, used this to their
advantage to undercut their local competitors,
eventually driving competitor Lufkin Industries
into bankruptcy. A media report in 2010 concluded
that Direct Trailer’s use of incarcerated labor
allowed it to avoid paying full wages or employee
benefits, resulting in an artificially cheap product.377
There is some evidence that unionization could help
incarcerated people negotiate more favorable terms,
but the state has a strong interest in suppressing
union activity to ensure a “secure, frugal penal
system.”378 Furthermore, the Supreme Court has
held that incarcerated people do not have a First
Amendment right to form a prison union.379
Small companies like Direct Trailer and Equipment
are not the only ones reaping the benefits. Consider
Walmart and the claims under its Standards for
Suppliers that it does not tolerate involuntary
labor in the production of its goods.380 Despite this

Captive Labor

43

public-facing promise, Walmart benefitted from
cheap prison labor by using subcontractors that use
prison labor themselves. One of Walmart’s partners
is the Minnesota-based Jacobs Trading Company,
which has used PIECP labor to “demanufacture”
customer returns.381 Jacobs Trading Company
has employed incarcerated workers in Indiana,
Minnesota, Nevada, and Oklahoma.382 This means
that incarcerated people worked indirectly for
Walmart by removing all identifying marks and
branding from returned clothing and putting them
up for resale at superstores around the country.383
By hiding behind the anonymity of Jacobs Trading
Company, Walmart benefitted from cheap
incarcerated labor.
Before Starbucks adopted a zero tolerance policy on
the use of prison labor by suppliers, the company
used a similar tactic to Walmart by subcontracting
with a company called Signature Packaging
Solutions, which itself hired Washington state
incarcerated workers to package coffee.384 In the
mid-1990s, Microsoft subcontractor Exmark
Manufacturing, which also has reportedly worked
for Costco and JanSport, used incarcerated labor to
shrink wrap up to 20,000 computer mice.385 Fujitsu,
a leading global information and communication
technology company, used PlasTech, a Minnesotabased plastics company, as an intermediary to
benefit from the labor of 26 incarcerated workers.386

There is little recourse for incarcerated workers
being exploited under PIECP. The accountability
mechanism for labor abuses in PIECP programs
has been captured by the entities benefitting from
prison labor. The National Correctional Industries
Association, an organization run by a board of
directors who represent different prison industry
departments and corporations from across the
country, monitors PIECP. In essence, the people
implementing PIECP are charged with monitoring
their own implementation—hardly a logical or
effective oversight structure.387
Table 4 includes the identifiable corporate partners
that employed incarcerated workers through PIECPcertified projects as of the third quarter of 2021. The
listed companies that produce products made by
incarcerated workers may sell the products under
other brand names or operate as subcontractors
or subvendors for larger corporations, making it
difficult to track supply chains from incarcerated
worker to consumer.388 As a result, incarcerated
workers provide labor for other suppliers in the
listed companies’ supply chain. For instance,
incarcerated workers employed through the PIECP
program in Idaho work at a frozen food factory for
Dickinson Frozen Foods. The products are then
sold to consumers under a variety of brand names—
Dickinson Frozen Foods notes online that it supplies
“most major food companies” with frozen onions, for
example—so consumers may not know that the food
they consume originated with prison labor.389

TABLE 4

Corporations with PIECP-certified projects to employ incarcerated workers, by state
State

Company

Product

Arizona

JIM-GLO Trailers LLC

Utility cargo trailers

Arizona

Sun Country and PlayCraft Trailers

Metal utility trailers

Arkansas

SemahTronix, LLC

Wiring harnesses

California

Barnum Farming Company/ Barnum
Land and Cattle

Alfalfa, rye, wheat, and triticale

California

Big Dawg Manufacturing, LLC

Assembly/manufacturing of evaporator coils

California

Joint Venture Electronics

Circuit boards

California

Merit Corporation

Electronic remanufacturing

Idaho

Dickinson

Specialty roasted, baked, seasoned, and water-cooked potatoes

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ACLU Research Report

Idaho

Dickinson Frozen Foods

Indiana

Jacobs Trading Sewing

Manufacturing of industrial air filters

Indiana

Kauffman Engineering

Assembly, inspection, and packing of wire harnesses

Indiana

Raine, Inc.

Making small item cases

Iowa

Game One

Custom screen printing and embroidery

Iowa

H&H, LLC

Steel trailers

Iowa

Lomont Molding

Plastic molded parts

Iowa

PDM Precast

Precast concrete products

Iowa

Quantum Plastics

Custom injection-molded parts

Kansas

BAC Company

Leather goods

Kansas

Electrex Inc.

Wire harnesses

Kansas

Great Plains Manufacturing

Agricultural equipment

Kansas

Hubco Inc.

Cloth bags

Kansas

Impact Design, LLC (AllCustomWear
Sports Apparel)

Sports apparel

Kansas

Koch & Co., Inc.

Wood doors

Kansas

LPF High Performance Coatings, LLC

Sewing, painting, and welding machine operators

Kansas

Moly Manufacturing, LLC

Agricultural equipment

Kansas

Pioneer Worldwide

Balloons

Kansas

Polo

Clothing and textiles

Kansas

Redbarn Pet Products, Inc.

Pet products

Kansas

Seat King

Transportation seating

Minnesota

Anagram

Assembly and packaging of decorated party balloons

Minnesota

Plastech Corporation

Plastic products assembly

Minnesota

Stillwater Assembly and
Manufacturing

Miscellaneous subcontract assembly and light manufacturing

Minnesota

Stillwater Metal

Metal fabrication

390

Frozen onions and peppers

Montana

Simms Fishing

Wading boots

Nebraska

CleanCore Solutions

Janitorial supply

Nebraska

Millard Lumber

Cabinet and drawer boxes

Nebraska

TekBrands, LLC

Wood storage cases for paper cutting dies, metal assembly,
scrapbooking machines and dies

South Carolina

Craig Industries, Inc.

Cut and sew operation and golf shirts

South Carolina

Midcon Cables

Electronic cables

South Carolina

Standard Plywood, Inc.

Hardwood flooring, pressed plywood, and scraped hardwood

South Dakota

Badlands Quilting

Textile, apparel, and furnishings

South Dakota

Metal Craft Industries

Truck suspension, boat docks, miniature lamps, window
sashes, and fence stakes

Texas

Henderson Controls, Inc.

Brass valves and fittings

Texas

OnShore Resources, Inc.

Circuit boards and wire harnesses

Utah

Nexeo HR

Manufacturing, assembly, and labor requirements

Note: Companies listed above had projects certified by PIECP and employed incarcerated workers during the third quarter of 2021. This
list does not include correctional industries programs with PIECP-certified projects nor companies that had projects certified by PIECP
but did not employ incarcerated workers during the reporting period. This list also omits any companies that were not named by the
National Correctional Industries Association (NCIA) with sufficient specificity to be identified by the ACLU.
Source: NCIA, Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP) Certification & Cost Accounting Center Listing, Statistics for the Quarter Ending September 30, 2021 (Baltimore:
2022)391

Captive Labor

45

These companies represent only a fraction of the
private companies that employ incarcerated workers.
For instance, the Kansas Department of Corrections
lists 36 private companies that employ incarcerated
workers as of March 2022, only 12 of which employ
workers through PIECP.392
Private companies also directly employ incarcerated
workers through work-release programs and
restitution centers. In Kansas, about 150 women
incarcerated at a state prison have been sent to
work at candy maker Russell Stover Chocolates
work-release program since 2021.393 Although
they are paid $14 an hour, their take-home pay
is less than $6 an hour because the prison keeps
one-quarter of their wages for room and board
and deducts for transportation costs and other
expenses. Men incarcerated at another state prison
in Kansas are sent to work for Husky Hogs, LLC,
a private hog operation, where they are assigned
to job assignments such as breeding, farrowing,
maintenance, and finishing.394 In North Carolina,
incarcerated workers have worked at Tyson Foods
poultry plants as part of a work-release program.395
Workers in Mississippi’s restitution centers have
been employed by private employers, including
Arby’s, Church’s Chicken, McDonald’s, and
Popeyes franchises, as well as for meat- and poultryprocessing plants.396

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ACLU Research Report

Kevin Rashid Johnson is incarcerated in a solitary
cell in a maximum-security prison in Virginia. He
has been starved, beaten, and chained to a wall. The
men held in the solitary cells on either side of him
have been ordered not to speak to him. Johnson has
been told that he is there for a number of reasons: He
has organized prison strikes, tried to attract media
attention to the abusive conditions of confinement,
and above all else, he has refused to work.397 Prison
labor, as he sees it, is a form of modern-day slavery.398
Although many incarcerated people apply to work or
otherwise seek employment while incarcerated, the
labor performed by people incarcerated in the United
States is not truly voluntary. Voluntariness implies
the right to have a say in what type of work one does
and the right to refuse to work at all. Yet 76.7 percent
of incarcerated workers surveyed by the Bureau of
Justice Statistics reported that they are required
to work.399 Prison systems have developed forms of
coercion that strip away most or all choice, forcing
incarcerated people to work exploitative jobs that
they rarely choose for themselves.
This section focuses on coercion through the threat
of punishment—such as solitary confinement and loss
of family visitation—to prevent incarcerated workers
from challenging the arbitrary and discriminatory
nature of their work assignments. The second form of
coercion, discussed in greater detail in the section of
this report titled “Captive Market,” involves coercion
through deprivation—whereby incarcerated people
work because it is the only way for them to pay for
basic necessities, or because it is the only alternative
to being confined in their cells.400

Photo © Mark Peterson/Corbis via Getty Images

Bound to Work

Shackled incarcerated workers from the Limestone Correctional Facility on a
chain gang doing roadwork in Huntsville, Alabama, in August 1995.

The coercion applied through the threat of further
punishment has the backing of state and federal
courts, which have upheld the practice of using
prison-specific sanctions, like solitary confinement,
for refusing to work or instigating others to refuse
work.401 Some states threaten the loss of basic
“privileges,” like family visitation and access to
the commissary to buy food and other necessities.
Others use subtler but still coercive methods, such as
the promise of earning “good time” (a reduction in
sentence), if the individual engages in good behavior,
studying, and work.402

Captive Labor

47

This section details the dynamics, factors, and
policy choices that have led to a form of prison labor
practiced in the United States that runs afoul of
many of the most basic and universal human rights
standards and with no equivalent in other western
democracies.

Involuntary Labor in
Confinement
The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
prohibits slavery and its modern manifestations,
including forced labor, debt bondage, and human
trafficking.403 Yet it carves out an exception for
incarcerated workers, one which U.S. courts have
construed broadly, granting prison administrations
unfettered discretion to set prison labor conditions
and requirements.404 States such as Colorado, Utah,
and Nebraska have recently amended their state
constitutions to abolish slavery without exception,
but 20 state constitutions still contain language
mirroring the 13th Amendment carve-out for
incarcerated labor.405 The constitution of Georgia,
for example, states: “[t]here shall be no involuntary
servitude within the State of Georgia except as a
punishment for crime after legal conviction thereof.”406
California’s constitution contains almost identical
language.407

hour a day or every other day, and the “exercise” is
usually alone in a small, dog kennel-like enclosure.
People incarcerated in federal prisons can be placed
in solitary confinement for up to three months as
punishment for work-related violations, and up to six
months for “encouraging others to refuse to work, or
to participate in a work stoppage.”411
Those who refuse to work also typically lose all
privileges, including access to personal telephone
calls, family visitation, and access to the commissary
to buy food and other basic necessities. If they
refuse a work assignment, incarcerated people in
federal and most state prisons additionally risk
losing the opportunity to shorten their sentence
through earned “good time,” effectively extending
their incarceration.412 In fact, a single instance of
refusal can add a month back to a sentence in federal
prisons.413

Mandatory work requirements for incarcerated
people are common in most U.S. prisons. In the
federal prison system, all “sentenced inmates who
are physically and mentally able to work are required
to participate in the work program.”408 People
incarcerated in federal prisons can be disciplined
for “refusal to work or accept program assignment,”
“unexcused absence from work or a program,” and
“failure to perform work as directed.”409

Compulsory prison labor systems are likewise
present in many state prison systems.414 Missouri
requires incarcerated people to work unless
they present proof of inability.415 In Florida, the
Inmate Orientation Handbook explicitly informs
incarcerated individuals that “[they] do not have the
option to refuse work assignments.”416 If they try to,
they are severely punished: 60 days of disciplinary
confinement and the reduction of 90 days of good
time toward their sentence.417 In Oregon, because of a
ballot measure passed in 1994, the state constitution
mandates that all incarcerated people are required to
work a minimum of 40 hours per week.418 Those who
refuse to comply with Oregon’s work requirement
may be punished; for instance, workers incarcerated
in Oregon state prisons who refused to work shifts
at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic reported
they were threatened with transfer to more crowded,
higher-security units and loss of honor housing,
benefits, and privileges.419

In state and federal prisons, incarcerated people
who refuse to work may be placed in disciplinary or
administrative segregation—which often is a form of
solitary confinement.410 During this time, they may
have most or all of their personal property taken
away and are allowed out of their cells only for brief
periods to shower and exercise, often at most only an

In Texas, all incarcerated people who are able to
work are required to do so, and those who refuse to
work can be confined to their cell; stripped of their
personal property; lose good time credits; and lose
access to commissary, recreation, visitation, and
personal telephone calls.420 A refusal to work while
incarcerated in Tennessee can lead to solitary

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ACLU Research Report

confinement.421 Workers incarcerated in Illinois
report that refusing to work means the loss of
recreation time, phone privileges, and warm food.422
In California, when incarcerated people refuse to
accept or perform a work assignment, they lose all
access to family visits, phone calls (except during
emergencies), recreational or entertainment
activities, and all personal packages.423 They may
face “disciplinary detention or confinement” (solitary
confinement) for a period of 10 days. During this
time, they have their personal property taken away,
are allowed out of their cells for exercise for only one
hour per day, five days a week, and lose all privileges,
including access to personal nonemergency telephone
calls.424 In more serious cases, confinement and loss
of privileges may become prolonged or permanent.425
Refusing to work in California can also lead to a “115”
write-up,426 a serious rule violation that then can keep
an individual from attaining parole.427
In Louisiana, if an incarcerated person refuses
to work, fails to perform their assigned jobs with
“reasonable speed and efficiency,” or does not answer
during work roll calls, they can be placed in solitary
confinement for up to 30 days for first offense
and up to 180 days for a third offense, although
in practice people are placed in confinement for
indefinite periods of time for these work offenses.428
Dolfinette Martin, the housing director at Operation
Restoration who was formerly incarcerated in
Louisiana, attested that “the choice [was] work or
go to solitary.”429 When Montrell Carmouche was
incarcerated at Louisiana Correctional Institute
for Women, they cut grass on a “chain squad,”
reminiscent of chain gangs after the Civil War. Once
Montrell decided they no longer wanted to participate
in forced manual labor, they spent about one year
in solitary confinement.430 Multiple respondents to
a survey of 700 people incarcerated in Louisiana
likewise reported that they were placed in solitary
confinement because they were unwilling or unable to
work in the fields.431 One respondent said, “Most of my
lockdown came from refusing to be a slave…working
in fields of corn, etc. Free people riding horses with
guns telling you to pick this, do that, and/or write you
up for disciplinary just because he or she can.”432

In Arkansas, Kaleem Nazeem was repeatedly placed
in solitary confinement for months at a time at
multiple state prisons, including Cummins Unit
and Varner Unit, for refusing to pick cotton. He
said, “I had an aversion to picking cotton. The first
time I refused to pick cotton, I was placed in solitary
confinement. I said I weren’t picking no cotton. For
the whole cotton season, four months, I stayed in
solitary confinement. Every time the cotton season
came around and I found myself on hoe squad, then I
opted out and found myself in solitary confinement.”
He added, “I was truly experiencing modern day
slavery. It was like, to me, to pick cotton was one of
the symbols of slavery to me. I was trying to push
back on what was basically a former reality for my
ancestors and a present reality for me at that time.”433
Refusing to participate in a work assignment can
have serious consequences for those preparing for
reentry into society. For instance, an incarcerated
person asserting their right to refuse work in
Connecticut could lose their place in a community
release program.434
California’s prisons provide incentives to
incarcerated people to perform particularly
dangerous labor—fighting the state’s raging
wildfires—knowing that such incentives are not easily
passed up by an incarcerated population with very

“You’re captive at the
mercy of your jailer. You
get what they give you
and buy what they sell
you. The only choice is
to survive or not.”
—Romarilyn Ralston, Program Director, Project
Rebound, formerly incarcerated at the
California Institution for Women

Captive Labor

49

few attractive alternatives. An incarcerated person
who works as a firefighter under the California Prison
Industry Authority (CALPIA) described the situation
as such: “When you work as a firefighter, they
promise to reduce your time behind bars. They dangle
that freedom in front of you like a carrot on a stick;
they bend your will to theirs.”435 He added: “Making
the choice to not work comes with consequences. They
can write you up for refusing a work assignment and
take your good time away. If you keep refusing a job
assignment, they use freedom as a bargaining chip.
You are deemed a ‘failure to program.’”436

Photo © Jim West/ Shutterstock

N’ashid Abdul Latif, a former hospice worker in
California’s Medical Facility prison echoed this
observation: “Often, it’s not a matter of choice. If
you get assigned you have to work, otherwise you get
a write-up, which can result in adding days to your

sentence.”437 Incarcerated workers report, again
and again, being threatened with worse jobs or
disciplinary action to ensure their compliance.438 One
of them, Romarilyn Ralston, noted: “You’re captive
at the mercy of your jailer. You get what they give
you and buy what they sell you. The only choice is to
survive or not.”439
Not only is work compulsory in many prisons but
imprisoned workers report that illness, injury,
disability, or a physical inability to work often
does not relieve them of work duties. One formerly
incarcerated worker recalled in an interview with
NPR: “I was diagnosed with HIV right when I got into
the prison, so I would have days where I physically
did not have the energy to stand and work in the
kitchen for 12 hours. But I had to work. You don’t
get days off. You don’t get to have sick days. And if I
didn’t go to work, it was a rule violation.”440 A worker
incarcerated in Illinois reported she was punished
with a rule violation for refusing to report to her job
in the kitchen after testing positive for COVID-19.441
A survey respondent incarcerated in Louisiana said
he was placed in solitary confinement “over and
over” because he was unable to perform certain work
assignments due to problems with degenerative disks
in his spine, anemia, and asthma.442 Kelly SavageRodriguez, of the California Coalition for Women
Prisoners, remembers one incarcerated woman being
required to work as a porter almost immediately after
having her leg amputated. Though she was not able to
stand because her prosthetics had not yet arrived, she
was denied her request to be released from the work
assignment.443
At restitution centers, work is also not voluntary.
Individuals housed at restitution centers are often
not given a choice in whether they participate in the
restitution center’s labor program.444 Nor, in some
cases, are residents given a choice over what kind of
work to accept, even when that work requires them to
perform dangerous tasks or labor for long hours.445

A work crew of incarcerated workers from the Maricopa County Jail clears
weeds and invasive grass species from a city park in Phoenix, Arizona.

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ACLU Research Report

Arbitrary and Discriminatory
Allocation of Work Assignments
Not only are incarcerated people forced to work,
but they also do not have a right to choose the type
of work they are forced to perform. Incarcerated
workers have a strong interest in choosing the
type of work they will perform: Wages can differ
substantially depending on the job assignment,
and some jobs have particularly dismal working
conditions, while others may offer desirable skills
training. And yet, federal courts have generally ruled
that incarcerated people do not have a right to a
particular job assignment.446
As a result, the conditions of prison labor are often
subject to the discretion and whims of prison
administrators, resulting in favoritism, racism,
sexual abuse, or complete arbitrariness in job
allocation. Incarcerated workers can be subject to
race, gender, and disability discrimination in job
assignments. Incarcerated workers can suddenly
find themselves punitively stripped of a job or
demoted to significantly lower-paying jobs without
any recourse. And incarcerated workers can also be
subject to sexual abuse by corrections officers who
demand sexual favors in exchange for better work
assignments.
For James “JC” Cavitt, the Housing and Outreach
Program coordinator at Project Rebound in
California, the classroom was a one of his first safe
spaces. As a child, he was drawn to school by the
promise of two hot meals a day, and he would go with
his sister when they began to feel hungry. Eventually,
showing up led to learning. And a young Cavitt
soon realized his potential for something great. His
teachers validated his hard work and intelligence,
planting a lifelong love of education that survived a
harsh entry into the criminal justice system. By the
time he was 19, Cavitt stood, scared and alone, in
front of the California maximum security prison’s
Institutional Classification Committee (ICC), a group
of high-ranking prison officials who would review his
young life, deliberate, and design a labor program
that that would shape the rest of his time in prison.
Cavitt, the boy who loved going to school with his

A 2016 study found
that Black men
have significantly
higher odds of being
assigned to lower-paid
maintenance and other
facility services work
than white men.
sister, the man who would later put himself through
college and now has a master’s in social work, faced
an ICC that was on the verge of assigning him to a
job wiping down tables in the kitchen. When Cavitt
objected to his initial work assignment, the captain
snapped back with “who are you to tell me what
you aren’t going to do?”447 Although Cavitt did find
another sympathetic ear on the ICC who allowed him
to start a job as a teacher’s assistant, he admits that it
could have easily gone the other way.
Race, Gender, and Disability Discrimination
Michael Gibson-Light, an ethnographer who spent 18
months observing a prison in the U.S. Sun Belt region,
found that prisons allocate job assignments along
racial lines, even when they have contrary policies
in place.448 Desirable jobs, such as more highly paid
work in the call center or the fleet garage where police
vehicles are serviced, were more often allocated
to white incarcerated people. This can result from
biased decisions made by correctional officers as well
as systems that rely on peer referral for consideration.
Applicants to the call center who “don’t sound
like they’re from the ghetto” were prioritized, one
manager explained to Gibson-Light.449
Analysis using nationwide data sets from 2004
and 2005 on people incarcerated in prisons and

Captive Labor

51

Allocation of work assignments can perpetuate racial
and socioeconomic inequalities. Dolfinette Martin
now works at Operation Restoration, a reentry
organization for women in New Orleans. While
An incarcerated worker, part of
a work crew, cleans debris left
by homeless encampments in
Eugene, Oregon.

52

ACLU Research Report

incarcerated in Louisiana, she was assigned to
manual agricultural labor in the fields. She described
how white women worked in “prestigious jobs”—the
dining hall, housekeeping, or the “snack shack” for
visitors. But “there weren’t a lot of white girls in the
field,” she observed.452 “The only people who could
approach the Deputy Warden to ask for a job were
white women,” she said.453
In Illinois’ Centralia Correctional Center, two
incarcerated people separately confirmed the
prevalence of racial bias in the allocation of jobs.
Ronni Curry explained that prison officials “favor
white inmates for the best jobs and positions,”454
and Jesus Duran observed that “any job outside the
kitchen is given mostly to white inmates.”455 Such
racially discriminatory assignments is not just
an immediate affront to a person’s dignity—it can
make a considerable difference in someone’s reentry
prospects. A worker incarcerated at Western Illinois
Correctional Center noted that “the white inmates
get the plumbing, electrician, and carpentry jobs;
and the Black and Latino inmates get the jobs like
kitchen, yard gang, laundry, clothing, but none of the
jobs that can actually train us to get a good job on the
outside.”456

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multilevel modeling to examine the nature of work
assignments found that race significantly impacted
work assignments.450 The 2016 study found that
Black men have significantly higher odds of being
assigned to maintenance and other facility services
work than white men—41.2 percent of Black men
and 35.3 percent of white men were assigned such
jobs, which are typically paid the lowest wage, if at
all. The study also found that a significantly lower
percentage of Black men were assigned work in
prison industries—2.8 percent of Black men versus
3.7 percent of white men had such jobs, which are
typically the most sought-after and more highly
paid jobs that may provide useful skills. Men who
identified as a race other than Black or white were
less likely than white men to be paid for their jobs.
While the study did not find significant differences
based on gender for most job categories, it did find
that women who identified as a race other than Black
or white had significantly increased odds of being
assigned a maintenance or other facility services job
assignment.451

Discrimination also occurs along gender lines. GibsonLight notes that white male incarcerated workers
are disproportionately more likely to be assigned to
higher-paying, skilled, vocational labor assignments
than their minority and female counterparts.457
Numerous women incarcerated at the South Idaho
Correctional Institute reported to the ACLU of
Idaho that there is a lack of training opportunities
as compared to men. For example, men have an
opportunity to obtain their commercial driver’s
license. That opportunity, however, is not available
to incarcerated women. A transgender person
incarcerated in a state prison in Illinois, where jobs are
scarce, said that they were denied any job assignment
because they are transgender. They said: “Every able
body should be allowed to request a work assignment
regardless of their gender. Here in Shawanee
Correctional Center, transgender [people] like myself
are not allowed to work a job assignment.”458
Disability discrimination is common, and has
resulted in unlawful categorical exclusion of
incarcerated workers with disabilities from entire
categories of work assignments or even any work
assignment at all, in violation of the Americans
with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the
Rehabilitation Act.459 Both of these laws require jails
and prisons to ensure that people with disabilities
have an equal opportunity to participate in prison
programming, including work assignments. Prison
authorities routinely exclude incarcerated people
with disabilities from work programs due to their
disability, despite their wish to work. This can be
because of stereotypes about what people with
disabilities can and cannot do, or because prisons
fail to provide the modifications that people with
disabilities need to fully and equally participate
in work or vocational programs. Exclusion based
on stereotype, and the failure to make reasonable
modifications, are both illegal under disability
rights laws. Exclusion from categories of work
assignments or from the work program entirely
denies incarcerated people with disabilities the
opportunity to earn a wage or a higher wage, to
develop job skills, and to earn “good time” credit to
reduce their sentences. Incarcerated people have
challenged their exclusion from work and vocational

training programs due to disabilities such as mobility
disabilities (walking with a cane and quadriplegia),
diabetes, hearing disabilities, vision disabilities, HIV
status, and hypertension.460 Courts have agreed that
exclusion based on these disabilities can constitute
disability discrimination.
Arbitrary Assignment, Sexual Abuse, and
Favoritism
Incarcerated workers can also be subject to sexual
abuse by the prison administrators who select their
work assignments. Incarcerated workers in New
York have reported that corrections officers have
demanded sexual favors in exchange for better job
assignments and threatened women with losing their
jobs or demotion to a lower-paying job if they did not
submit. For instance, a woman formerly incarcerated
at Albion Correctional Facility reported that she
repeatedly witnessed corrections officers make
sexual advances, offering preferable job assignments
as a quid pro quo for sexual favors. She told advocates
from the 13th Forward Coalition that she was denied
her preferred work assignments because she refused
to perform sexual acts for prison staff.461 “For a lot of
the jobs that I tried to get, they wouldn’t let me, just
because I wouldn’t do what they wanted me to do for
them,” she said.462
Another woman formerly incarcerated at Albion
Correctional Facility corroborated this account. She
said that corrections officers demanded oral sex from
incarcerated women and punished those who did
not submit by switching them to lower-paying jobs,
taking away their jobs, or docking their payroll. “I’ve
seen plenty of inmates giving oral sex to officers, girls
doing something they don’t want, girls in a position
they didn’t deserve,” she said. “These officers will
take advantage of you. They are the ones controlling
your payroll, they are the ones submitting payroll.
These officers had pull with certain people in program
committee and would switch women out [of their
jobs]. If you aren’t doing what they want, they will set
you up to lose your job. And if you lose your job, you
lose your money.”463

Captive Labor

53

Overt abuse and discrimination aside, getting an
acceptable job assignment can be as arbitrary as
gaining favor with a particular correctional officer
or being acquainted with someone with influence
inside the prison.464 When it comes to the most
coveted industry jobs, which are better compensated
but much less accessible because they are fewer in
number, personal connections are determinative:
“Guys from the outside who run the industries simply
handpick people whom they like.”465
As a result, job placements usually have little
relationship with the skills or abilities of the worker.
Someone with skills as a computer engineer may be
assigned to work as a janitor—when someone enters
prison, their skills and backgrounds hardly matter.466
“It’s as if we lived in a communist regime,” remarked
a person incarcerated in California.467 Meanwhile,
some job assignments may be arbitrarily restricted
only to people with lengthy sentences or only to those
who are close to release. One incarcerated worker
noted, “Most of the industry jobs or high paying jobs
are [reserved] for those who have the most time due
(if not life) [but] those closest to going home would
benefit from a high paying job so they are able to save
some money and gain marketable skills.”468

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Paid in Pennies

Photo © AP/Danny Johnston

In addition to working under coercive and arbitrary
conditions, incarcerated workers in U.S. prisons
are often working for paltry wages or no wages at all.
Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi,
South Carolina, and Texas pay zero compensation
to incarcerated people for the vast majority of
work assignments. For instance, in Texas, only the
approximately 80 workers employed by private
companies through the PIECP program are paid
a wage,469 while the rest of the state’s incarcerated
workers—121,167 workers as of April 2019—are not
paid.470 Even workers in Texas’s state correctional
industries program—which reported more than

$76.7 million in net sales in 2019—are not paid any
wage.471 In South Carolina, incarcerated people
working in all institutional jobs, some correctional
industries jobs, and on community labor crews
are not paid any wage. As of June 2018, the most
recent available data, more than 90 percent of South
Carolina’s 14,786 incarcerated workers had these
unpaid job assignments.472 Several prisons in Maine
do not pay at all for laundry, kitchen, cleaning, and
grounds-keeping work.473 In Nevada, a number of jobs
in the prison facilities are unpaid, including porter
and maintenance jobs.474 In Louisiana, incarcerated
workers who are not eligible for sentence reductions
must work for an initial period of three years without
pay. Those who are eligible to be paid are only paid
two to four cents per hour for most jobs or may choose
to forego wages and instead receive “good time” to
reduce the length of their sentences.475
Incarcerated workers who do receive wages are paid
cents, at most, for every hour of their labor. It is rare
that a job pays even a dollar an hour. Our research
found that the average minimum hourly wage paid
to workers for non-industry jobs is 13 cents, and the
average maximum hourly wage is 52 cents. The about
6.5 percent of workers with jobs in higher-paying
state prison industries are paid 30 cents to $1.30 per
hour on average.476

An incarcerated worker cleans bars at a guard station at Tucker Prison near
Tucker, Arkansas.

The overwhelming majority of workers have jobs
in prison maintenance, which pay anywhere from
nothing to mere pennies per hour. The state of
Connecticut pays incarcerated workers employed
in maintenance jobs 75 cents per day.477 In Kansas,
maintenance workers make 45 cents a day—just
over five cents an hour, one-sixtieth the wage
paid to incarcerated people working the best-paid

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55

reported he made $4.80 per month for working eight
hours a day, seven days a week as a porter and on
grounds crew.486 This amounts to less than one cent
per hour. “You can barely afford laundry soap with
that amount of pay,” he noted.487 Another worker
incarcerated at Danville Correctional Center in
Illinois said he is forced to work 12-hour shifts, six
days a week, to cover for some of his co-workers
who have contracted COVID-19. According to the
incarcerated worker, instead of hiring new workers,
the prison requires them to work overtime without
any “pay raise or good time.”488 According to a
newspaper published by people incarcerated at
Angola prison in Louisiana, maintenance workers
at Angola are “on call 24/7 to respond to whatever
emergency may arise.”489 These emergency
responsibilities are added to the maintenance work
incarcerated people complete each day. As one
correctional industries jobs in the state.478 In
supervisor admitted, “these guys are never really off
California, all workers with jobs classified as “laborer,” work. When they leave here and go to their dorms,
which includes most maintenance jobs such as janitor, they often get called right back out. Day, night or even
kitchen helper, landscaper, porter, server, gardener,
holidays.”490
and construction worker, are paid eight to 13 cents
per hour.479 Incarcerated workers in Illinois laboring
as “general laborers,” which includes jobs as janitors,
The Wages Paid to Incarcerated
lawn workers, laundry handlers, and commissary
480
workers, are paid 85 cents to $1.10 per day.
Workers in Each State

Our research found
that the average
minimum hourly wage
paid to workers for
non-industry jobs is 13
cents, and the average
maximum hourly wage
is 52 cents.

Incarcerated workers’ wages remain stagnant for
years, even decades. For instance, incarcerated
workers in New York have not received a pay increase
since 1993.481 Incarcerated workers in South Dakota
working in non-industry jobs have been paid $0.25
per hour for at least the past 20 years.482 Incarcerated
workers with non-industry jobs in Virginia have
been paid $0.27 to $0.45 per hour for decades.483 In
Vermont, most incarcerated workers have been
paid $0.25 per hour since 1988, when the pay scale
for non-industry jobs was last revised.484 In 2021,
incarcerated Illinois workers in non-industry jobs
received a pay raise for the first time in 11 years:
merely 14 cents a day for general laborers, who
are now paid $0.85 to $1.10 per day ($17 to $22 a
month).485
Prisons also require workers to perform overtime
labor without compensation. For instance, a worker
incarcerated in a state prison in Danville, Illinois,

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The following table (Table 5), based on publicly
available data and responses to FOIA requests we
filed with the Federal Bureau of Prisons and state
departments of corrections, details the wages paid
to incarcerated workers in each state and in federal
prisons. The chart indicates where data is not publicly
available and the state department of corrections
did not respond to our FOIA requests. For a more
complete description of wages in each state and in
federal prisons, including sources, see Appendix B,
and for calculated average and hourly wages, see
Appendix C.
The table divides work assignments into two
categories: work for state-owned correctional
industries and all non-industry jobs. State-owned
correctional industries jobs have separate pay scales
and generally pay higher wages; these account for
about 6.5 percent of prison jobs overall. Non-industry
jobs include all jobs operated by state correctional

agencies, a broad category that includes prison
maintenance work and a variety of skilled or
specialized work assignments. The vast majority of
workers have jobs that support the operation of the

prison facilities and are generally compensated at
the lower end of the non-industry pay scales noted in
the table below. The pay scales for non-industry jobs
include uncommon jobs that pay at the higher end of
the pay scales noted in the table.

TABLE 5

The wages paid to incarcerated workers in each state and in federal prisons, by jurisdiction
State

Pay scale:
non-industry jobs

Pay scale: Jobs in state-owned
correctional industries

Federal Prisons

$0.12 to $0.40 per hour

$0.23 to $1.15 per hour

Alabama

$0

$0.25 to $0.75 per hour

Alaska

$0.30 to $0.90 per hour

Alaska no longer has a correctional
industries program.

Arizona

$0.15 to $0.45 per hour

$0.23 to $1.00 per hour

Arkansas

$0

$0

California

$0.08 to $0.37 per hour

$0.35 to $1.00 per hour

Colorado

$0.33 to $1.61 per hour

$0.86 to $2.49 per hour

Connecticut

$0.75 to $1.75 per day

$0.30 to $1.50 per hour

Delaware

Not publicly available

$0.25 to $2.00 per hour

Florida

$0 for nearly all jobs; some jobs are paid up
to $50 per month

$0.20 to $0.95 per hour

Georgia

$0

$0

Hawaii

$0.25 to $1.00 per hour

$0.50 to $2.50 per hour

Idaho

$0.20 to $0.90 per hour

Not publicly available

Illinois

$0.85 to $2.50 per day

$0.30 to $2.40 per hour

Indiana

$0.12 to $0.25 per hour

$0.30 to $0.55 per hour

Iowa

$0.28 to $0.71 per hour

$0.70 to $0.95 per hour

Kansas

$0.45 to $1.05 per day

$0.25 to $3.00 per hour

Kentucky

$0.48 to $1.58 per day

Not publicly available

Louisiana

$0.02 to $0.04 per hour

$0.02 to $0.40 per hour

Maine

$0 to $220 per month

$0.50 to $2.80 per hour

Maryland

$0.90 to $2.75 per day

$0.17 to $1.16 per hour

Massachusetts

$1 to $2 per day generally; $5 to $25 per
week

$0.40 to $1.55 per hour

Michigan

$0.74 to $1.77 per day

Not publicly available

Minnesota

$0.25 to $1.00 per hour

$0.50 to $2.00 per hour

Mississippi

$0 for most jobs

$0.20 to $1.30 per hour

Missouri

$7.50 to $8.50 per month

$0.30 to $0.71 per hour

Montana

$0.35 to $0.45 per hour, $1.25 to $4.50 per
day

$0.40 to $0.60 per hour, $1.70 to $5.00 per
day

Nebraska

$1.21 to $4.72 per day; $0.38 to $1.50 per
hour

$0.38 to $1.08 per hour

Nevada

$0.00 for some jobs; pay scale for paid jobs
is not publicly available

$0.35 to $4.50 per hour

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57

State

Pay scale:
non-industry jobs

Pay scale: Jobs in state-owned
correctional industries

New Hampshire

$0.85 to $3.00 per day

$1 to $5 per day

New Jersey

$1.30 to $1.60 per day

$1.30 to $10.00 per day

New Mexico

$0.10 to $1.00 per hour

$0.30 to $1.10 per hour

New York

$0.10 to $0.33 per hour

$0.16 to $0.65 per hour

North Carolina

$0.40 to $1.00 per day

No more than $3.00 per day

North Dakota

$1.55 to $7.07 per day

$0.45 to $1.79 per hour

Ohio

$6 to $24 per month

$0.23 to $1.35 per hour

Oklahoma

$7.23 to $14.45 per month

$0.20 to $0.60 per hour

Oregon

Instead of wages, compensation is paid via
the Performance Recognition and Award
system, through which workers may receive
points that may be converted to a monthly
monetary award.

$8 to $82 per month

Pennsylvania

$0.19 to $0.51 per hour

$0.19 to $0.51 per hour

Rhode Island

$0.50 to $3.00 per day

$1.50 to $3.00 per day

South Carolina

$0 for nearly all jobs

$0 to $2.00 per hour

South Dakota

$0.25 per hour

$0.25 to $0.50 per hour

Tennessee

$0.17 to $0.59 per hour

Not publicly available

Texas

$0

$0

Utah

Not publicly available

$0.60 to $1.75 an hour

Vermont

$0.25 per hour

$0.25 to $1.35 per hour

Virginia

$0.27 to $0.45 per hour

$0.55 to $0.80 per hour

Washington

No more than $55 per month

$0.70 to $2.70 to hour

West Virginia

$13 to $71 per month

$0.25 to $1.25 per hour

Wisconsin

$0.12 to $0.42 per hour

$0.97 per hour on average

Wyoming

$0.35 to $1.00 an hour

$0.50 to $1.20 per hour

Average

$0.13 to $0.52 per hour

$0.30 to $1.30 per hour

Note: For all sources and a more complete description of wages in each state and in federal prisons, see the table in
Appendix B. For calculated average and hourly wages, see Appendix C.

The American judicial system has upheld these
appallingly low wages. In 2010, a federal court ruled
that “prisoners have no enforceable right to be paid
for their work under the Constitution.”491 Higher
courts have held repeatedly that the Fair Labor
Standards Act, which establishes basic worker
protections such as minimum wage, overtime
pay, and recordkeeping requirements, does not
protect workers in prison.492 Courts have reasoned
that incarcerated people working full-time for the
state are not employees but wards, and are thus
not guaranteed any “standard of living” like free

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ACLU Research Report

workers.493 This leaves incarcerated people with the
responsibilities, anxieties, and dangers of full-time
employment without the basic labor protections or
wages needed to sustain them.

Garnishing Already Low Wages
Prison workers make pennies by the hour—but even
these low wages are not theirs to keep. Across the
country, prisons deduct as much as 80 percent from
incarcerated people’s paychecks for court-imposed

Prisons deduct as
much as 80 percent
from incarcerated
people’s paychecks for
court-imposed fines,
taxes, family support,
restitution, and room
and board, among
other fees.
fines, taxes, family support, restitution, and room
and board, among other fees. Over half of the
incarcerated people surveyed for this report said
funds had been deducted from their wages.494 These
wage deductions often leave incarcerated workers
with less than half of their gross pay. As a result,
an incarcerated worker earning a wage of $1 per
hour might only receive 50 cents or less.495 After
subtracting for basic necessities, this number is even
lower.
For instance, West Virginia deducts 40 percent from
incarcerated workers’ earnings to cover financial
obligations such as restitution.496 In Nevada, 80
percent of incarcerated workers’ wages were
deducted until the state legislature passed a law that
went into effect in July 2021, capping wage deductions
at 50 percent.497 One woman who testified before the
legislature said her incarcerated friend earned $50 in
wages but received only $1.17 after deductions.498
In many states the majority of these deductions
are to pay down the costs of incarceration. In
Minnesota, 77 percent ($3.48 million) of wages
earned by incarcerated workers were deducted in
fiscal year 2021, about two-thirds of which went
to “cost of confinement.”499 More than 60 percent
of the deducted wages earned by incarcerated

workers in the PIECP program from July 2020 to
June 2021 went to room and board.500 The share of
incarcerated workers’ salaries in the PIECP program
deducted to pay for room and board has increased in
recent years: One study found that nearly a third of
deductions went to room and board in 1998 to 2001,
and cumulative deductions that went to room and
board amounted to 26 percent from 1979 to 2001.501
Notably, the federal government’s regulations
stipulate that “room and board” covers not only
“sleeping accommodations and meals,” but also
“the costs of most necessities and some additional
provisions covering most items for the security,
justice, rehabilitation, and daily lives of State prison
inmates.”502
The federal UNICOR program makes deductions
a central consideration in its operations. It
prioritizes employing incarcerated people who owe a
“significant financial obligation” to the government.503
Individuals who owe more than $1,000 skip the
25,000-person waitlist.504 From their wages, the
government deducts costs for fines and court fees,
as well as child support, student loans, and unpaid
federal income tax.505 In other words, the government
ensures that incarcerated people who owe it money
pay it back through their labor while in confinement.
In order to secure a UNICOR job, workers must enroll
in its Inmate Financial Responsibility Program,
which results in at least 50 percent of their monthly
pay being deducted for any court-ordered financial
obligation and a “cost of incarceration” fee that
the Federal Bureau of Prisons may impose.506 For
instance, Syrita Steib, co-founder and executive
director of Operation Restoration, noted that she saw
50 percent of the wages she earned while working for
UNICOR evaporate through deductions.507 If workers
refuse to participate in the financial responsibility
program, they lose essential “privileges,” including
eligibility to be paid above the maintenance pay level,
to be placed into a community-based program, to
receive better housing, and to have full access to the
commissary.508
In the PIECP program, up to 80 percent of a worker’s
wages can evaporate through deductions.509 In fact,
as wages in PIECP rise, so too do deductions—for

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59

taxes, family support, restitution funds, and even
room and board inside prisons. In the first half of
2021, 59 percent of the wages earned by incarcerated
workers employed in the PIECP program was
deducted.510 In a single year (a one-year period from
July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021), over $22.5 million was
deducted from the wages of incarcerated workers in
the PIECP program.511
At the state level, these deductions have been used
to sustain and expand incarceration. For example,
Florida has created a Prison Industries Trust Fund to
collect funds from the small minority of incarcerated
workers who are paid wages and administer these
funds for the “construction or renovation of its
facilities or for the expansion or establishment of
correctional work programs.”512 In Nevada, wages
earned by incarcerated workers are deducted not only
for room and board and restitution, but also to cover
(1) a capital improvement fund for prison industries;
(2) to cover the costs to construct new prisons and to
relocate, expand, or improve prison operations; (3)
to fund prison industries if there is a shortfall in the
fund for prison industries; and (4) to advertise and
promote the goods and services provided by prison
industries.513

Excluded from Earning into the
Social Safety Net
Most of the work prisoners perform is explicitly
excluded as covered employment eligible for Social
Security, Medicare, Social Security Disability
Insurance (SSDI), and unemployment insurance
benefits, which drastically limits incarcerated
workers’ ability to earn toward and receive future
benefits.514 Incarcerated workers’ earnings also are
excluded from refundable income tax credits. The
exclusion of incarcerated workers from the right
to earn into the social safety net afforded to other
workers has a tremendous negative impact on
incarcerated workers’ ability to support themselves
and their families after their incarceration.
Because incarcerated workers are carved out of the
protections offered by the Social Security, Medicare,

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ACLU Research Report

and disability insurance systems, the time they
spend working while in prison generally does not
contribute toward earning Social Security, Medicare,
and SSDI benefits.515 Because of the low wages they
are paid, most incarcerated workers also are unable
to meet the statutory income thresholds required to
qualify for these benefits. Furthermore, the work they
perform while incarcerated often does not constitute
employment for the purposes of calculating quarters
of employment for benefits, so some people may work
for long stretches of their lives while incarcerated but,
following their release, may no longer have sufficient
time left in their working lives to earn the benefits
of Social Security.516 The only exception to these
exclusions is the labor performed by some, but not all,
workers employed in PIECP.517
Incarcerated workers also do not qualify for the
Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax
Credit (CTC) because Congress explicitly excluded
any wages earned while the person is incarcerated
from the earnings that earn towards the EITC and
the CTC.518 Incarcerated workers have lost litigation
challenging the denial of these benefits.519 The EITC
and the CTC are the largest redistributive social
welfare programs in the United States and are
intended to alleviate poverty. These benefits could
be garnished for child support and other dependent
obligations. The exclusion of incarcerated workers
from these benefits denies critical financial support
to workers and their children and other dependents.
Moreover, because the work performed by
incarcerated workers is explicitly excluded from
the statutorily defined employment that counts
toward the accrual of unemployment insurance
benefits under the Federal Unemployment Tax Act,
incarcerated workers are ineligible to receive the
protections offered by the unemployment insurance
system if they cannot find work upon their release
from prison or if they lose jobs while in prison
through no fault of their own.520

Dangerous and Degrading

Not only is prison labor often compulsory,
arbitrary, and discriminatory, it can be dangerous
and degrading—and sometimes deadly—as well.
Incarcerated people sometimes work in hazardous
conditions which would be closely regulated by
federal workplace health and safety regulations if the
work were performed outside of the prison context.

Excluded from Basic
Workplace Protections
The main U.S. federal statute that sets minimum
standards and safeguards for health and safety in
the workplace, the Occupational Safety and Health
Act (OSHA), excludes most incarcerated workers—
namely, those who work in state correctional
facilities—from its coverage.524 Moreover, many
health and safety workplace statutes at the state level
do the same, resulting in gaps in protections for most
incarcerated workers.525 Other federal statutes, such

Photo © U.S. Army National Guard/Staff Sgt. Edward Siguenza

While incarcerated at a prison in Michigan, Glen Lilly
was tasked with cleaning up a massive sewage spill at
Michigan’s Parnall Correctional Facility. To do so, he
had to repair a damaged sewer line, which required
wading through excrement. Made to perform this
work without adequate protective gear, Lilly later
contracted hepatitis C. “[T]here were no respirators
and not enough protective suits to go around,” he
said.521 When Lilly went down to open and clean
backed up vents per prison officials’ commands,
sewage “shot onto the wall and was splattering all the
way to the ceiling.”522 A Michigan State Occupational
Safety and Health Administration investigation
partially corroborated these reports.523

Incarcerated firefighters from the California Department of Corrections and
Rehabilitation, Fresno Kings Unit, Miramonte Camp, at a training site in
Friant, California.

as the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the National Labor
Relations Act (NLRA), contain standards that aim
to protect the physical and mental health of workers,
albeit indirectly, by providing for minimum wage,
overtime pay, protection from discrimination, and
the right to collectively bargain for improved work
conditions—but the vast majority of incarcerated
workers are excluded from these too.526 Such
exclusion has severe implications for the basic safety,
bodily integrity, and mental health of workers in
prison.

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61

The U.S. Constitution also provides little workplace
protection for prison workers. Although the Supreme
Court in Farmer v. Brennan explained that “prison
officials must…take reasonable measures to
guarantee the safety of the inmates,”527 the court’s
“deliberate indifference” test makes incarcerated
workers’ access to remedies based on an Eighth
Amendment cruel and unusual punishment claim
difficult. Under this standard, it is not enough for
the incarcerated worker to establish the presence of
unsafe working conditions by showing an absence
of safety equipment, a lack of training in safety
procedures, a pattern of similar injuries, or even the
violation of state or federal safety regulations.528 The
incarcerated worker must instead meet the much
higher burden of proving that the prison official
“knew of a substantial risk of serious injury and did
nothing to protect [the incarcerated person].”529
Clearly, this standard makes proving a constitutional
violation particularly difficult—if not impossible—for
most incarcerated workers.

Dangerous Work Conditions
and Preventable Injuries
The labor that administrators require incarcerated
people to perform often takes place in dangerous
industrial settings or other hazardous conditions
that would be closely regulated by federal workplace
health and safety regulations if they were not
incarcerated. Sixty-four percent of incarcerated
workers surveyed by the ACLU and the GHRC
reported feeling concerned about their safety while
working.530 Our research found that incarcerated
workers with minimal experience or training are
assigned work in unsafe conditions and without
protective gear that would be standard in workplaces
outside prisons.
Unsurprisingly, this leads to injuries. Incarcerated
workers have been burned with chemicals, maimed,
or killed on the job. Although lack of data related to
workplace conditions and injuries in prisons makes
it difficult to know the full extent of injuries and
deaths, injury logs generated by the California Prison

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ACLU Research Report

Industry Authority (CALPIA) show that incarcerated
workers reported more than 600 injuries over a fouryear period, including body parts strained, crushed,
lacerated, or amputated.531 In numerous cases we
documented nationwide, injuries could have been
prevented with proper training, machine guarding
mechanisms, or personal protective equipment.
Workers report injuries that would have been
prevented had they been provided standard
protective equipment. For instance, an incarcerated
worker tasked with removing asbestos from a hot
steam pipe in a New York state prison sustained a
first degree burn because he was not provided with a
high temperature glove.532 Repeated injuries caused
by objects becoming lodged in incarcerated workers’
eyes while using industrial grinders in California
could have been prevented if they had proper safety
goggles or visors.533
The conditions of work can be inherently dangerous.
Incarcerated workers are employed at dangerous
meat, poultry, and egg processing plants, where lack
of adequate training or safety procedures has led
to dozens of documented injuries and at least one
death of incarcerated workers.534 In Georgia and
North Carolina, there were at least 24 instances in
which incarcerated workers were injured at poultry

Incarcerated workers
with minimal experience
or training are assigned
work in unsafe
conditions and without
protective gear that
would be standard in
workplaces outside
prisons.

plants from 2015 to 2018.535 Incarcerated workers
have also suffered injuries and amputations from
sewing and cutting machinery while working in
garment factories.536 Incarcerated workers have
been severely injured—even paralyzed and killed—
by falling trees and tree limbs while cutting down
trees on community work crews and in forestry and
firefighting jobs.537 In California, where research has
shown that incarcerated workers were more likely
to be injured than professional firefighters, at least
four incarcerated firefighters have been killed while
fighting wildfires, and more than 1,000 required
hospital care during a five-year period.538 Even work
in industrial-scale prison kitchens and laundries
can be dangerous because it involves huge industrial
equipment that carries mechanical and electrical
safety risks as well as risk of burns, lacerations, and
exposure to hazardous chemicals.
In prison industries, reports of dangerous
conditions of labor and workplace injuries involving
incarcerated workers abound and often involve
repeat players.539 For instance, several incarcerated
workers working at egg factories in Arizona sued the
factories’ owner, alleging serious injuries.540 Robert
McLaughlin, an incarcerated worker in Arizona
working at Hickman’s Family Farms’ egg factory,
claimed that he broke his leg in May 2019 when “a
cart weighing several hundred pounds came loose
and pushed him off a trailer that was six feet off the
ground.”541 Michael Gerhart, another incarcerated
worker assigned to Hickman’s, alleged that in
October of the same year he lost function in his left
hand and fingers after they were caught in a machine
that reportedly had “no safety mechanism, guard,
or emergency shut-off.”542 Gerhart claimed that his
hand was “sucked in and crushed” but, instead of
being taken to the hospital, he was just returned to
the prison.543 In what would amount to the third case
of an incarcerated worker injury at Hickman’s in the
same year, Mary Stinson alleged she was forced to
rip her own finger off rather than lose her whole hand
to a piece of machinery she had never been trained
on.544 Two other incarcerated workers filed lawsuits
against Hickman’s in 2019 and 2020 alleging they
sustained serious hand injuries while working on a
manure belt, one alleging he suffers from “permanent

disfigurement” and a “lack of function in his hands
and fingers” and the other alleging he “suffered
mangling and extensive fractures to his right hand”
(both cases subsequently settled, according to court
records).545
Even apparently routine maintenance work can be
deadly when prisons are negligent. Ronni Curry, an
incarcerated worker at Centralia Correctional Center,
watched an incarcerated cook get electrocuted to
death by a “faulty wire that staff neglected to repair
[even while] knowing it was there.”546 Latashia
Millender, another incarcerated worker who
confirmed this account, added: “I’ve seen a man get
electrocuted by a faulty wiring. And I had to return
to work the following day. I am nothing but a number
to the people I am working for.”547 Another worker
incarcerated at Pontiac Medium Security Unit in
Illinois, paints a picture of secrecy and neglect at
prison work sites: “Supervisors simply ‘cook the
books’ to make the department appear efficient and
safe. At times I’ve been told to fill out false paperwork
for supervisors to sign.”548
Even though the Occupational Safety and Health
Administration (OSHA) does not have jurisdiction
over labor conditions inside most prisons, its
limited investigations into businesses employing
incarcerated workers under work-release programs
have confirmed the endemic failure to protect these
workers’ health and safety.549 Between 2017 and
2020, OSHA has received at least 20 complaints and
requests for investigations of dangerous conditions
and workplace injuries involving prison industries.550
For example, CALPIA, the PIECP-certified entity that
manages the joint venture program between private
business and prisons in California, has been the
subject of at least 13 OSHA complaints.551
When incarcerated workers are hurt on the job, they
may be denied medical care or receive substandard
care. In one case in North Carolina, four incarcerated
workers with severe chemical burns received nothing
more than diaper rash ointment for their injuries.552
In Georgia, a kitchen worker had his leg amputated
due to improper medical care of a wound he sustained
from slipping and falling while working in the prison
kitchen.553 In Pueblo, Colorado, an incarcerated

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63

worker assigned to a sawmill was told by a supervisor
to reach into a conveyor belt area to dislodge a piece
of wood. A blade sliced through her helmet and
straight into her skull, nearly decapitating her. 554
Instead of being rushed to the emergency room, a
shift commander ordered her back to the prison
infirmary. Given that the sawmill had no first aid kit,
she was loaded onto the prison transport van with
two feminine hygiene pads on her wound while fellow
incarcerated workers made sure she did not pass out
from blood loss. She later developed an antibioticresistant staph infection.555

64 percent of all
incarcerated/formerly
incarcerated individuals
surveyed reported
reported feeling
concerned about their
safety while working.
Incarcerated workers have also been exposed
to dangerous toxins on the job. Incarcerated
workers perform asbestos abatement in New York,
Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Utah through each state’s
correctional industries program. In 2019, OSHA
cited U.S. Battery Manufacturing Co., a local battery
maker in Augusta, Georgia, for routine violations of
health and safety standards resulting in exposure of
incarcerated workers to dangerous levels of lead.556
In 2010, the Office of the Inspector General at the
Department of Justice released a report on the federal
UNICOR program’s electronic-waste recycling
program. Incarcerated people who disassembled
and recycled computer parts were exposed to
poisonous metals at the workplace, causing serious
health problems.557 The report criticized UNICOR
staff members, who had “failed to perform hazard
assessments…or did so incorrectly.”558 The report

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also found that the program’s managers and
assistants went so far as to lie about toxic metals
hazards to UNICOR staff and from incarcerated
workers.559 Even after these hazards were identified,
UNICOR failed to make the prompt, necessary
changes to prevent further harm.560 The report
stressed an overall “culture at UNICOR that did
not sufficiently value worker safety,”561 needlessly
exposing men and women to dangerous toxins
outlawed by OSHA’s federal protections.
Incarcerated workers also endure brutal
temperatures with inadequate water or breaks, while
working outdoors and inside facilities without air
conditioning. Incarcerated firefighters have been
sickened and killed by heat exposure during routine
training exercises in California.562 In Texas, an
incarcerated man working as a dog trainer died of
severe hyperthermia; he had been wearing a 75pound fight suit on a hot day and collapsed while
training attack dogs to catch escaped prisoners.563
In Louisiana’s Angola prison, the majority of
incarcerated people work in the fields. They harvest
vegetables and pick cotton, enduring temperatures
that average 92 degrees Fahrenheit and can rise as
high as 105 degrees.564 To make a 7:00 a.m. start
time, incarcerated people get up at 5:00 a.m. and
are typically out in the fields until 4:00 p.m.565
Water is scarce in the fields. Formerly incarcerated
agricultural workers at Louisiana’s Angola prison
report witnessing other farm workers collapse from
exhaustion or dehydration while working in the
fields on hot days.566 You just survived the day,” said
Hakeen Sukkar, who was incarcerated at Angola
for 41 years.567 Sukkar recalls that if a corrections
officer decided that an incarcerated worker who had
collapsed was “faking,” they could be sent to solitary,
or simply left to lie unconscious. Those who protested
these conditions saw a similar fate—they were either
ignored or sent to solitary.568 When temperatures in
the winter months fall below freezing, they are still
required to work, sometimes without proper clothing.
“Even if it was too cold, you stayed,” recalled Wayne
Thomas, who spent some of his 41-year term working
in Angola’s fields.”569

Failure to Train

denied any legal remedy.575 Tragedies like his
workplace injury are not random accidents—they
are the results of systemic failures to adequately
train incarcerated workers, failures which have
resulted in serious injuries and deaths, and which
carry no accountability due to the lack of oversight
mechanisms and judicial remedies.

Prisons fail to adequately train incarcerated workers
to perform the tasks they are assigned to complete,
even when such tasks involve significant danger.
Incarcerated workers report receiving inadequate or
no training on how to handle hazardous chemicals,570
operate dangerous equipment with cutting blades,
operate specialized agricultural or manufacturing
equipment, clean biohazardous materials like
excrement and blood,571 and use dangerous kitchen
equipment.572 In fact, almost 70 percent of currently
incarcerated workers who participated in the survey
circulated for this report indicated that they received
no formal job training.573

Photo © AP/Mike Groll

A worker incarcerated in Chicago said he was
surprised when his superiors at a prison food facility
quickly put him to work with only minimal training.
Not long after, he lost several of his fingers on a
deli slicer.574 At a trial concerning the incident, he
explained that he never received an orientation
session or even an explanation of the facility’s
rules or safety precautions. Nevertheless, he was

An incarcerated worker sews a laundry bag while working in a garment
shop at Coxsackie Correctional Facility in New York.

For example, in 2013, an incarcerated worker at the
Faribault, Minnesota, correctional facility, found
himself assigned the prison’s industrial workshop.
After one-and-a-half months, he was told to begin
operating a beam saw, a large machine used to slice
pieces of wood with sensor guided circular blades.
He had never seen a beam saw in his life and had
also never received official safety training from a
prison official. Instead, he was taught on the job by
another incarcerated worker who had previously been
operating the saw without the plastic safety guards
meant to protect the operator from the blades. On
August 5, 2013, the saw blades caught his hand and
mutilated it, severing three of his fingers and part of
a fourth. Doctors were unable to reattach any of his
fingers.576 He appealed to the judicial system for relief,
but the court ruling on the case determined that more
than a claim and proof of negligence were required for
the state to be held liable.577
Frank Ellington, who was incarcerated in a state
prison in Alabama, was sent through a work-release
program to work at a private poultry processing
plant.578 After almost eight years in prison, Ellington
was looking forward to the possibility of parole if all
went well at his new job.579 But this opportunity never
came; five months later, Ellington was killed when
a machine caught his arm and pulled him inside.580
When OSHA later investigated the incident, it found
that employees at the plant “might not have known
how to correctly turn off the machine that killed
[Frank Ellington].”581 The workers’ health and safety
agency pointed to the plant’s failure to institute any
relevant safety procedure.582 In fact, OSHA found this
failure constituted “the same problem, at the same
plant, that led to a proposed fine 10 years earlier.”583
The Southern Poverty Law Center also investigated
Ellington’s death. Their investigation revealed that
at least seven other states have a practice of sending

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their incarcerated people to work in the same type of
dangerous poultry plant that Ellington was sent to,
where inadequate training regularly puts their lives
and limbs at risk.584
Another incarcerated worker in Alabama was
tasked with clearing dead pine trees from near a
county road while on a community work crew. No
one had provided the incarcerated workers with any
orientation or training about the use of chainsaws. He
says that he told his work supervisor he did not feel
he was qualified to use the chainsaw and feared for
his safety because of the tree’s precarious position.
Still, he was ordered to cut the tree. He complied with
the order because otherwise he would have received
a written reprimand that would affect his parole
eligibility. He was struck by a large fallen branch
and severely injured, suffering a broken back and
rendered a paraplegic for life.585 A federal court found
that assigning incarcerated workers to use chainsaws
without safety training raised a substantial and
obvious risk.586
Incarcerated workers report receiving insufficient
or no training for jobs inside prisons as well, with
sometimes disastrous consequences. On her
second day of work on laundry porter duty at a
Michigan state prison, an incarcerated woman
suffered a traumatic brain injury, fractured skull
and nasal bones, and internal cranial bleeding after
a 400-pound laundry cart fell on her while she was
unloading carts from a truck with a hydraulic lift. A
federal court found that despite the dangerous work,
prison officials provided “only limited, on-the-job
training” and that the laundry truck lacked a stopper
device to prevent the laundry carts from tipping.587
Blanca Ruiz-Thompson worked in an optical
laboratory operated by CALPIA.588 This included
working with industrial machine cutters and other
specialized equipment for which Ruiz-Thompson
received no training. She recalls being paired with
another incarcerated worker with more experience
who was instructed to “train her.”589 She noted that
whether any worker received good or adequate
training depended on how much the “supervisor”
was willing to share and teach. According to RuizThompson, there was no formal training program

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to ensure every worker knew how to operate the
equipment and perform the work safely.590
Lack of training endangers not just the incarcerated
workers themselves—it puts everyone in the prison at
risk. One incarcerated worker noted: “I was working
with food but I [didn’t] know how to properly check
to see when the meat was cooked.”591 Another worker
added: “We should have received training on how
to prevent the cross contamination of food.”592 The
“equipment is dysfunctional, work areas dirty, broken,
and misused. But there is zero staff accountability.”593

Degrading Conditions
Prison labor comes with a daily dose of humiliation.
At one facility, incarcerated individuals referred
to the “strip shack,” where they were searched
naked—“strip down, squat, cough”—every time they
left or entered the prison.594 When surveyed about his
time laboring in prison, a worker who is incarcerated
at Western Illinois Correctional Center said, “I
understand it’s prison…but we still do have rights and
we are human beings.”595
At Angola prison, the row-cropped fields in Louisiana
where incarcerated workers toil under extreme
heat, are completely devoid of restroom facilities or
even portable toilets. Incarcerated workers are told
to relieve themselves “off the side of the field.”596 In
addition, prison officials have also been known to give
incarcerated individuals humiliating “make-work”
by sending many of them out into the fields with
extremely dull blades to cut grass.597 “If you watch a
slave movie, you’ll have seen the same thing,” said
Robert Jones, a community leader and co-founder of
the Free-Dem Foundations, who himself worked in
the Angola fields while incarcerated.598
Some incarcerated workers report racial harassment
by correctional staff. A worker incarcerated at
Angola said, “Now we are really slaves all over again.
We work for free, hard labor, must work or you will
be beaten.” He added, “Most of the deputies from
warden on down are real racist and will let you know
can’t nothing we can do. One of the deputies told me

the reason they named this Angola because that’s
where slaves escaped from the motherland, and that
will never happen again because it’s legal now. So we
lost.”599
In interviews and correspondence with survey
respondents, incarcerated workers almost
universally complained of correctional officers’
practice of belittling prisoners as a way to assert
their authority. Jesus Duran, an incarcerated worker
at Centralia Correctional Center, observed: “We is
treated like slaves in here. Officers talk to us in any
kind of way while working.”600 Similarly, the wife of
an incarcerated firefighter remarked: “They’ll be out
in a community fighting fires for 24 hours at a time
and when they get back to their camp and they’re
treated like trash.”601 Ronni Curry, an incarcerated
worker in Illinois, observed that prison “officers
should be forced to wear body cameras to keep them
professional. They usually start altercations and
write us up for it. These officers have no oversight
and constantly abuse their authority and get away
with it.”602 A worker who is incarcerated at Calipatria
State Prison in California wrote: “The officers lack
understanding and training in how to interact
with prisoners. They’re supposed to be helping
rehabilitate. Instead, they try to instill fear while
trying to degrade us, creating contempt for authority
instead.”603

“Now we are really
slaves all over again…
One of the deputies
told me the reason they
named this Angola
because that's where
slaves escaped from the
motherland, and that
will never happen again
because it’s legal now.”
— Worker incarcerated at Louisiana State
Penitentiary

Insurmountable Barriers to
Redress and Accountability
When Rights Are Violated

The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) of 1996
erected nearly insurmountable barriers to accessing
relief through federal courts, and many states have
subsequently enacted laws that similarly restrict
prisoners’ access to state courts.604 One of the most
devastating features of the PLRA is its requirement
that incarcerated people exhaust administrative
remedies within correctional facilities before they
bring suit in court—a requirement that has been used
to dismiss countless lawsuits filed by incarcerated
people seeking the protection of the courts against
dangerous or unhealthy conditions of confinement. 605

Incarcerated people seeking to protect themselves
from abuse through administrative or legal
processes are often met with further callousness
and indifference. There are two formal channels
through which an incarcerated person can nominally
access redress and accountability: internal prison
grievance procedures and external lawsuits (through
the judicial system). However, the two channels are
inextricably linked in such a way that actually limits
access to effective remedy and justice.

Meanwhile, the few administrative remedies
available inside prisons tend to be burdensome and
obscure. Grievance procedures vary, but generally
they require that incarcerated individuals submit
written complaints to a correctional official, followed
by appeals to higher authorities such as a warden.606
Often these steps must be carried out within strict
deadlines, which can be unreasonable for full-time
incarcerated workers to meet. For example, in
Georgia, the deadline for filing a grievance is 10

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67

calendar days.607 In California, a person in prison
has 30 calendar days from the date of the incident to
submit a 602-grievance form and 30 days to appeal
any denial.608 Although 30 days may sound like
plenty of time, prison grievance procedures can be
so complicated and opaque that even a team of 10
qualified lawyers needed 18 months to decipher
Illinois’ procedures.609
Moreover, while incarcerated people must adhere to
established timelines, prison authorities face little
or no consequences if they simply neglect to address
those grievances.610 At the California Institution
for Women, run by the California Department of
Corrections, the “grievance system is notoriously
ineffective, according to those who have tried to lodge
complaints.”611 Data obtained in the last five years
indicates that only about five percent of grievances
reviewed by Illinois prison officials in seven out of the
15 largest state prisons were decided in part, or in
whole, in an incarcerated person’s favor.612 Most other
complaints were simply ignored or “disappeared.”613
Beyond the sheer complexity and ineffectiveness of
the grievance system, incarcerated people are further
discouraged from pursuing complaints due to the
threat of retaliation by correctional officers, who
otherwise face little accountability for their actions.614
One survey of people incarcerated in Ohio found that
70 percent of those who brought grievances suffered
retaliation because of it.615 This type of retaliation
can and does include loss of desirable jobs and
vocational opportunities.616 For example, Blanca RuizThompson recalls being threatened with demotion to
an undesirable kitchen job whenever she tried to tried
to complain about the dangerous work conditions in
her Medi-Cal glasses manufacturing position.617
Although the requirement that claimants exhaust
internal grievance systems is likely the biggest hurdle
incarcerated people face to accessing justice, the
PLRA introduced a number of other barriers. First,
the law requires that incarcerated individuals pay
court filing fees in full. For those who are indigent or
unable to afford these upfront costs, the law requires
them to pay the filing fee over time, through monthly
installments from their prison commissary account.
Second, the law includes a three-strikes provision,

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whereby each lawsuit or appeal filed and dismissed
by a judge—because it is deemed frivolous, malicious,
or simply insufficient to constitute a proper
claim—counts as a “strike.” After three strikes, an
incarcerated individual is barred from filing another
lawsuit unless they are prepared to pay the entire
court filing fee upfront.618
Third, the bar for showing enough physical injury
to receive judicial redress is inordinately high: An
incarcerated man working at the electrical shop of the
federal prison in Marion, Illinois, filed suit after his
supervisor ordered him to crush fluorescent bulbs
containing mercury in an unventilated room. When
he asked for a face mask, he was told that he was “shit
out of luck.” 619 The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals,
while recognizing these claims, nonetheless held that
he “did not present sufficient evidence that he was
exposed to an unreasonably high amount of mercury,
that he had sustained injuries because of it, or that
the exposure necessarily created a risk of serious
future health complications.”620 Likewise, when
an incarcerated worker in Arkansas filed a federal
lawsuit against his prison for forcing him to work in
the freezing cold and blazing summer heat despite a
blood pressure condition that made over-exertion a
deadly prospect, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals
denied his claim, finding that he had not been in
imminent danger of physical injury.621

Prison Labor
During
COVID-19
As of April 1, 2022, at least 802,575 incarcerated
people and staff have been confirmed to have
been infected with COVID-19, and at least 3,077
incarcerated people died due to the virus.622 At
least one in three people incarcerated in state
prisons contracted COVID-19, and at least 39
percent of people incarcerated in federal facilities
were infected.623 Meanwhile, incarcerated
workers were tasked with manufacturing hand
sanitizer, masks, medical gowns, face shields,
and other personal protective equipment that
they were then prohibited from using to protect
themselves.624 Not surprisingly, the pandemic
ripped through prisons like wildfire.625

Incarcerated people, recognized as one of the
populations most vulnerable to the COVID-19
virus, were on the front line of the COVID-19
response.626 Nearly every state in the country
reported that incarcerated workers contributed
labor to the pandemic response. Incarcerated
workforces were widely used to meet the
demands of protective equipment production
during the pandemic.627 Incarcerated people also
worked in morgues, transported dead bodies,
dug mass graves, and built coffins. They washed
soiled hospital laundry, disinfected supplies, and
cleaned medical units.
At times, incarcerated workers had to perform
work that put them at the highest level of
exposure to the virus. In at least five states
(Michigan, Missouri, New York, Oregon, and
Texas), incarcerated workers participated in
frontline health roles that put them at high
risk of contracting COVID-19.628 For instance,
incarcerated people working in prison laundries
in Oregon and Missouri were tasked with cleaning
bedsheets, towels, and gowns from hospitals
treating COVID-19 patients.629 In Texas, previously
unpaid incarcerated workers were paid $2 an

Photo © Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

Incarcerated workers
throw away biohazard
material during a deep
cleaning in a cell pod
to prevent the spread
of COVID-19 at the San
Diego County Jail on April
24, 2020, in San Diego,
California.

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69

hour to work in mobile morgues and transport
bodies from the Medical Examiner’s Office in El
Paso.630 In New York, workers who were tasked
with digging mass graves were transitioned from
an hourly wage of $0.65 to $6. The Rikers Island
jail offered personal protective equipment as a
“privilege” to any incarcerated worker tasked with
digging mass graves.631
Our research identified at least 40 state
departments of correction and state prison
industries programs that pivoted to manufacture
personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer
for healthcare workers and other state employees.
Incarcerated workers at Great Meadow
Correctional Facility in New York were working
around the clock in eight-hour shifts to bottle
100,000 gallons of hand sanitizer every week
for 65 cents an hour.632 At the same time, regular
reports from New York correctional facilities
indicate that staff members were refusing to
clean units while incarcerated people were
being denied hand soap, sanitizer, and cleaning
supplies. Worth Rises, a prison reform advocacy
organization, gathered data showing that nearly
every municipality in New York state purchased
pandemic-related products made by incarcerated
workers.633 Incarcerated workers at Green Haven
Correctional Facility in New York built 1,400
coffins per week in April 2020 as COVID-19
spread through the prison and killed at least one
incarcerated person on May 4.634
California prisons halted most programming in
an effort to slow down the spread of COVID-19,
while keeping open its state prison factories as
incarcerated women worked seven days a week
to produce masks and hand sanitizer, “until their
bodies ached, and all they could do at night was
collapse asleep in their cells.”635 In Pennsylvania,
while the state prison system was under
quarantine, some incarcerated workers worked
12 hours a day, six days a week to manufacture
masks, medical gowns, antibacterial soap, and
disinfectant.636 Incarcerated workers in at least 15
federal prisons around the country manufactured
masks, gowns, and sanitizer for $0.23 an hour.637
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Workers in Texas were not paid at all for their
work manufacturing face masks and medical
gowns for first responders.638
Incarcerated workers in Alabama,639
Alaska,640 Arizona,641 Arkansas,642 Colorado,643
Connecticut,644 Delaware,645 Florida,646 Georgia,647
Hawaii,648 Idaho,649 Indiana,650 Iowa,651 Kansas,652
Louisiana,653 Maryland,654 Massachusetts,655
Michigan,656 Minnesota,657 Mississippi,658
Missouri,659 Montana,660 Nevada,661 New
Mexico,662 North Carolina,663 North Dakota,664
Ohio,665 Oklahoma,666 Oregon,667 Nebraska,668
South Carolina,669 South Dakota,670 Virginia,671
Tennessee,672 and Utah673 likewise manufactured
masks, hospital gowns, face shields, and hand
sanitizer.
Incarcerated workers performed this work
at the height of early pandemic lockdowns,
without personal protective equipment or
the recommended social distancing, putting
their health and lives at risk. In April 2020, the
Arkansas Department of Corrections posted an
image of incarcerated workers sewing a projected
80,000 masks while sitting in close proximity
to each other.674 Video shared by the Arizona
Department of Corrections similarly shows
incarcerated women in Arizona making masks
while working close to each other.675
In April 2020, incarcerated people working in
Oregon’s prison laundries—run by the semiindependent state agency Oregon Corrections
Enterprises, which operates like a private sector
business—were tasked with cleaning linens from
hospitals across the state treating COVID-19
patients. Despite the risks, the prison laundries
implemented few changes to working conditions
and failed to adopt sufficient measures to
protect incarcerated workers from the virus, such
as personal protective equipment and social
distancing.676 Paul Dawson, who worked in the
prison laundry at the time, observed, “We’re just
stacked on top of each other. It seems like one
of the worst places to be in the country [right
now].”677 If Dawson had tried to quit for his own
safety, he would have been prevented by Oregon’s

Photo © Sandy Huffaker/AFP via Getty Images

Ballot Measure 17, which required incarcerated
people to work full-time.678
In every state in the country, incarcerated workers
whose job assignments are considered essential
were required to continue working during COVID19 lockdowns, including jobs in manufacturing,
agriculture, firefighting, meat processing, food
services, and construction.679 Although these
incarcerated essential workers later met the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s
priority categories 1a and 1b for COVID-19 vaccine
rollout, 16 states left incarcerated people out of
their phase 1 vaccine distribution entirely.680
In late March 2020, Hickman’s Family Farms, the
Arizona egg production company mentioned in the
above section about workplace injuries sustained
by incarcerated workers, moved 140 incarcerated
workers—more than half of its Perryville Women’s
Prison workforce—out of the prison and into
the production facility itself to ensure they
would continue working.681 At least five of the
incarcerated workers assigned to live and work
onsite subsequently tested positive for COVID19.682 “The inmates are on top of each other,
literally,” said Carlos Garcia, executive director
of the Arizona Correctional Peace Officers
Association. “If these inmates had it, they’ve all
been exposed.”683
As COVID-19 spread in March and April 2020, in
some prisons, incarcerated workers were required
to continue even work that was nonessential, such
as making office furniture or stamping license
plates.684 For instance, in April 2020, Florida
suspended family visits in the interest of safety
while continuing to force incarcerated people to
do “road maintenance, sewage treatment, and
moving services for governmental buildings.”685

Incarcerated workers sew protective masks at Las Colinas
Women's Detention Facility in Santee, California, on April
22, 2020.

subsequently returned to their job assignments
because of the threats of having to serve more
time in prison, being placed in more restrictive
housing units, and losing phone calls and family
visits filed a class-action lawsuit alleging that
state prison authorities violated the state ban on
slavery and involuntary servitude by forcing them
to work.687 DG Foods, a poultry processing plant
in Bastrop, Louisiana, avoided shutting down
operations at the height of COVID-19 by relying
on incarcerated laborers who similarly faced loss
of their earned-time credits should they refuse to
work.688 Video recorded by an incarcerated person
working on the line exposed the abysmal working
conditions: no soap, no social distancing, and
often no masks.689

Incarcerated workers labored during the
pandemic under the threat of punishment if they
refused their work assignments. For instance,
incarcerated workers in Colorado who opted out
of kitchen work assignments in 2020 due to health
concerns lost “earned time,” meaning their parole
eligibility dates were pushed later.686 Workers who

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Captive Market

A 2018 study by the Brookings Institution based on
IRS data found that in the two years prior to entering
prison, the average reported annual income among
those who worked prior to entering prison was
$12,780, while 56 percent of individuals age 18 to 64
had essentially no reported annual income (less than
$500).690 Once in prison, incarcerated people are then
locked into a distorted economic system driven by
privatization and price gouging. While state taxes
are used to fund some aspects of prisons, prisons
increasingly contract with private companies for the
provision of basic services. These private companies,
in turn, charge incarcerated people for their services
directly. Some of these services are fundamental to
normal human life: phone calls to family, medication,
medical care, food, warm clothing, and basic hygiene
products.691

to afford basic necessities with their prison labor
wages.694 This often means that families must step
in. Most state prison systems ban or severely limit
care packages from families to supply necessities;
instead, families are required to go through prison
commissaries and private vendors that offer care
package programs.695 One study estimates that
families with an incarcerated loved one, many of
whom are impoverished themselves, spend $2.9
billion a year on commissary accounts and phone
calls.696 Over half of these families are forced to
go into debt to afford a relative’s conviction and
subsequent incarceration.697
Photo © AP/Mike Groll

The prison system does not just coerce and exploit
labor through the overt mechanisms discussed in
the previous sections, such as solitary confinement
and loss of family visitation. It also exerts another
insidious form of coercion—that of deprivation.

Incarcerated people are themselves captive
consumers. Prison systems and their subcontractors
have successfully leveraged this market, reaping
vast profits by requiring incarcerated people to
self-fund basic necessities at an inflated price while
incarcerated. Even while paying exorbitant prices for
these goods and services, incarcerated people have
seen their quality worsen over the years.692
The cost to an incarcerated person of their own
incarceration can run over $10,000 a year and many
cannot bear this cost alone.693 Almost 70 percent of
our survey respondents said that they were not able

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An incarcerated worker operates a sock-making machine in a garment shop at
Coxsackie Correctional Facility in Coxsackie, New York.

This section lays out the myriad ways that the
prison system bleeds dry a population already
in dire financial circumstances, creating a need
to work in the exploitative conditions of prison
labor. It describes the inflated day-to-day costs of
incarceration, which end up further impoverishing
incarcerated people and their families.

Requiring Self-Payment for
Basic Necessities
For a person earning mere pennies an hour, any
additional reduction forces devastating choices—
food versus soap, or medical care versus a phone
call to family. There is a myth that incarcerated
people spend their money on luxuries like candy or
electronics, but the reality is that incarcerated people
at both the federal and state levels must often pay for
basic items such as food, toiletries, telephone calls,
medication, and copays for health care—and at grossly
inflated prices.698 One study of three states found that
the average person spent almost $1,000 per year on
basic necessities at the prison commissary.699
People incarcerated across the country have
repeatedly asserted, through lawsuits, surveys, and
interviews, that they do not receive enough food of
nutritional quality in prison to sustain themselves.700
The American Correctional Association recommends,
but does not require, that incarcerated people
receive three meals a day.701 As a result of these lax
standards, some prisons provide only two meals a
day.702 Numerous incarcerated people report feeling
constantly hungry.703 A worker who is incarcerated
at Centralia Correctional Center says he has already
“lost 10lbs or so this past couple months.”704 A survey
conducted by Impact Justice found that 94 percent of
incarcerated people surveyed felt they could not eat
enough in prison to feel full.705
Aside from the sheer lack of quantity, the food
served to incarcerated individuals is sometimes
inedible. Incarcerated people in Michigan, for
example, have reported food spoiled by maggots,
dirt, and mold.706 At the Pontiac Correctional
Center in Illinois, incarcerated people described

“Inmates should not
have to choose to have
food, basic hygiene,
certain clothing items,
or needed nutritional
supplements because
they cannot afford
to purchase it [even]
after providing
countless hours and
labor.”
—Worker incarcerated at Western Illinois
Correctional Center

seeing rat droppings “on the majority of the food” and
cockroaches “crawling [through] the bread” after
rats chewed holes in the storage bags.707 Incarcerated
people are then forced to choose between hunger and
purchasing supplemental food from the commissary
at exorbitant prices.708
Furthermore, many prisons do not provide standard
hygiene products—or provide products of extremely
low quality—forcing incarcerated people to spend
money on necessities such as toilet paper, overthe-counter medicine, and soap.709 For example, in
Massachusetts, incarcerated people paid an average
of $22 each for soap throughout 2016 to supplement
the meager rations of soap provided by the prison.710
In Illinois, the average incarcerated person spends
$80 per year on toiletries and hygiene products,
totaling half their average annual wages.711 Toiletries
like toothpaste “[are] not essential,” according to
standards issued by the National Institute for Jail
Operations.712 “Teeth can be cleaned with baking

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73

soda, salt, or tooth powders.”713 One person formerly
incarcerated in California remembers thinking of
toilet paper as an occasional luxury.714 And women
in prison have been forced to purchase tampons and
menstrual pads for years; in some cases, they have
only been provided free menstrual products after
having to undergo humiliating rituals, like turning in
used products in exchange for new ones.715
Table 6 details the costs of selected commissary
items in federal prisons, including basic hygiene
items, over-the-counter medications, food, clothing,
stationary, and other necessities. State prisons have
similar commissary menus with varying prices, some
of which can be much higher than those listed below.
TABLE 6

Federal prisons commissary menu, selected
items
Item

Price

Soap bar

$0.95 to $1.50

Deodorant

$3.05

Tampons

$4.15

Pads

$3.90

Toothpaste

$1.50 to $2.45

Toothbrush

$1.00

Shampoo

$1.65 to $7.80

Disposable razors

$2.15 to $13.55

Sunblock

$2.15

Ibuprofen

$2.50

Antacid

$3.40

Cream to treat vaginal
yeast infections

$10.75

Band-Aids

$0.65

Decongestant

$2.20

Ankle brace

$10.80

Instant coffee

$7.80

Chili beans

$1.45

Oatmeal

$3.15

Canned tuna

$2.75

Bottled water

$3.75

T-shirt

$5.75 to $13.00

Sweatshirt

$15.35 to $20.15

Socks

$1.16 to $1.65

Towel

$5.35

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Laundry detergent

$1.50 to $7.80

Reading glasses

$4.50

Pen

$1.15

Envelopes

$1.95

Paper

$1.90

Copy card

$5.85

Source: Federal Bureau of Prisons Commissary List716

The privatization of prison goods and services has
warped the system’s priorities, placing profits above
the respect for peoples’ basic human rights. Private
entities lure cash-strapped correctional agencies
with promises of kickbacks, 717 while securing for
themselves lucrative monopolies or duopolies
that ensure their access to a captive consumer
base.718 Commissary vendors do not just provide
supplementary food—they are the only vendors of
other basic supplies such as eating utensils, cleaning
supplies, letter-writing supplies, and extension
cords.719
The simple act of calling loved ones is another
opportunity to wring excessive profits from
incarcerated people. Until the early 1980s, prisons
were serviced by AT&T and charged rates inside
prison similar to the outside market.720 Since then,
however, two companies, Global Tel Link (GTL) and
Securus Technologies, have come to dominate the
communications market within prisons,721 leading to
shockingly expensive communications charges for
incarcerated people and their families.722
The pricing of prison phone calls is largely
unregulated—while the Federal Communications
Commission has a cap of $0.21 per minute for out-ofstate phone calls from prisons and jails, there is no
limit on what can be charged for phone calls within a
state.723 This loophole is exploited by private
companies. For example, while GTL charges an
average of $3.94 for a 15-minute local phone call
nationally (or $0.26 per minute), it charges an
average of $9.56 within New York (or $0.64 per
minute).724 This discrepancy is enabled by GTL’s
virtual monopoly within New York county jails, as it
has contracts with 85 percent of the counties, making
it easy for the company to upcharge a captive
consumer base.725 A recent breakthrough came in

June 2021, when Connecticut became the first state to
make all prison phone calls free.726 This is a historic
move towards keeping families connected, and all
federal and state systems should follow suit.
Finally, even healthcare has become a revenue
generator as at least 35 states authorize either state
or correctional facilities to charge incarcerated
people directly for fees associated with their medical
care727—care to which incarcerated people have a
constitutional right.728 In these states, incarcerated
people can be forced to pay medical copays for
physician visits, medications, dental treatment,
and other services.729 In Arkansas, for instance,
incarcerated people must pay a $3 copay for any
medical appointment, even though they receive no
income in that state.730 A single visit to a doctor in a
West Virginia prison costs almost an entire month’s
pay for the many who make only $6 a month.731
These copays are grossly disproportionate when
compared to the average salary of most incarcerated
individuals.732 Moreover, seven states expect
incarcerated people who make no salary to pay
medical copays.733 Faced with this situation, many
incarcerated people opt to forgo healthcare and work
while sick or injured.734

“We work long and
hard hours without
being able to support
ourselves.”
— Worker incarcerated at Central California Women’s Facility

Some states have started to reckon with the perils
of privatization. Michigan provides an illustrative
case study. The state’s Department of Corrections
contracted with Aramark Correctional Services
and later Trinity Services Group to run its prisons’
kitchens and commissaries.735 This deal cut the
state’s costs to just $1.29 per meal.736 However,
the Department of Corrections ended its contract
with Aramark 18 months early because of “meal
shortages, [ ] maggots in the kitchen, [ ] smuggling of
drugs and other contraband by Aramark employees,
[and] Aramark workers engaging in sex acts with
incarcerated people.”737 Trinity Services Group,
which later took up Aramark’s contract, was riddled
with similar problems and ultimately fined more than
$2 million dollars for “unplanned meal substitutions,
delays, staffing shortages and contract violations.”738
The Department of Corrections in Michigan has since
abandoned the privatization of its foods service and
returned to a state-run food service. Other states
should learn from that experience.

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75

No Path Forward

Photo © Paul Hennessy / SOPA Images / Sipa USA via AP Images

At Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF)
prison, Amika Mota was just another number in
the eyes of those in charge of her life. She wore the
same clothes, ate the same foods, and was subjected
to the same daily indignities as the roughly 2,000
incarcerated women she lived with. It was not until
Mota joined the prison firehouse as an institutional
firefighter that she began to feel a change. Only then
were the corrections officers willing to put aside
old rules and demeaning treatment, which were
meant to divide and diminish, for the sake of saving
a home or a child’s life. Mota did not just respond to
calls within the prison. She and her team were often

dispatched out into the surrounding Madera County
community where the CCWF staff and their families
lived. Mota recalls: “We knew we had this particular
level of responsibility, and we knew we would get into
situations where we would meet correctional officers
at this human level rather than this power-dynamic
level.”
One call led Mota to an almond orchard to save the
daughter and granddaughter of a corrections officer
who had crashed their car among the groves. Another
call found her putting out a fire at an officer’s home
on Christmas Eve. To watch her handle the water
hoses, apply CPR, or pry open a mangled vehicle with
the jaws of life would be to witness a first responder
working hard like any other. The correctional
counselor who referred her to the program explained
that “we choose people for our fire program that we
would trust to respond to fires and take care of our
children out there.”739
Yet Mota, who had received the training equivalent
to any non-incarcerated professional firefighter, was
told that upon release, she would be unable to work
in any municipal fire department. Her status as a
formerly incarcerated person would disqualify her
from all but the lowest paying jobs, like seasonal
firefighting, which would pay $12 an hour for
dangerous work taking her far from her family for
months at a time. This was a poverty wage for a
mother trying to support her children after years in
prison.740

Incarcerated workers clean up after the police horses at the annual
Labor Day parade in Okeechobee, Florida.

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States sell the benefits of their work programs in
grand terms. In Louisiana, for example, the state’s
Prison Industries program purports to “offer jobs
that teach offenders valuable skills…which are

vital for eventual reentry to society.”741 The alleged
mission in California is to “facilitate the successful
reintegration of the individuals in our care back
to their communities…by providing education,
treatment, rehabilitative, and restorative justice
programs, all in a safe and humane environment.”742
Incarcerated people are continuously told that their
work will help them—that prison labor will teach
useful job skills and lead to work providing a living
wage upon release.
The evidence suggests otherwise. A study from 2017
looking at disparities in rates of unemployment
in 2008 revealed that 27.3 percent of formerly
incarcerated people were unemployed, compared to
a 5.2 percent unemployment rate among the general
population that same year.743 Furthermore, evidence
suggests that this ongoing “prison penalty” is not
uniform across race and gender: Whereas 43.6
percent of formerly incarcerated Black women were
unemployed, only 18.4 percent formerly incarcerated
white men were.744
Upon release, formerly incarcerated people are
thrown into the labor market and essentially made
to sink or swim. The states with the most generous
“gate money” (money given to someone as they leave
prison to help ease reentry) like California only give
$200.745 Alabama and Louisiana give as little as
$10.746 Formerly incarcerated people without external
support are forced to prioritize their immediate
needs, like food and housing, over investments in
their employability, like a cellphone or professional
clothing. 747
Such mass unemployment of formerly incarcerated
people comes at a high price. For the American
economy, it costs about $55.2 billion each year.748 For
formerly incarcerated people, unemployment doubles
their chances of recidivism.749 In fact, the best way to
predict whether someone will return to prison may be
to ask whether they have a job.750
Unemployment among the formerly incarcerated
can be traced, in part, to the dearth of job training
and skills development in prisons. Indeed, vocational
programs increased employment prospects by up to a
third.751 Another significant cause of unemployment

comes in the form of “collateral consequences,”
more than 44,000 civil penalties that weigh down
incarcerated people long after they finish their
sentences.752 Under these statutes, states can deny
formerly incarcerated people public benefits such as
food stamps, exclude them from public housing, and
bar them from holding a driver’s license.753 The most
common and burdensome collateral consequences,
however, are those related to employment.754
While not part of prison life itself, such collateral
consequences play a key role in the criminal legal
system. Long after someone leaves prison and ceases
to be a captive laborer, they remain captive to this
larger system.
Moreover, because the work performed by
incarcerated workers is explicitly excluded from
the statutorily defined employment that counts
toward the accrual of unemployment insurance
benefits under the Federal Unemployment Tax Act,
incarcerated workers are ineligible to receive the
protections offered by the unemployment insurance
system if they cannot find work upon their release
from prison or if they lose jobs while in prison
through no fault of their own.755

Dead-End Jobs
The overwhelming amount of job assignments in
prisons are monotonous and in areas that are not
marketable upon release. As noted above, of the
nation’s approximately 800,000 workers incarcerated
in prisons, around 80 percent perform typically
low-paid maintenance labor.756 Some workers pick up
cigarette butts from cracks in the pavement outside;
others rake rocks in the yard or are simply told to
go outside and stand in the rain.757 According to one
survey, over half of federally incarcerated people
work to maintain the prison itself.758 Although the
people who do this work still deserve as much respect
and protection as those who perform typically
higher-paid labor, generally prison labor simply does
not provide the useful job training that incarcerated
people are told they will receive.759

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“They took away the
better jobs over time—
those that taught us
engine repair and other
valuable trades. They
should bring back jobs
people can use when
they get home.”
— N'Ashid Abdul Latif, former hospice worker in
California Medical Facility prison

There are, of course, exceptions—some vocational
programs exist which are designed to pass on
valuable skills. Jerome Morgan, a co-founder of
Free-Dem Foundations, a youth-advocacy nonprofit
in New Orleans, had the opportunity to learn a
trade through one such program during the 20
years he was incarcerated in Louisiana’s prison
system. Incarcerated people like Morgan benefit
from vocational programs. Those who are able to
participate have an easier time finding work after
prison and a lower chance of committing another
crime.760 One study found that vocational programs
can boost formerly incarcerated individuals’ job
prospects by almost 30 percent.761 The government
benefits as well—money spent on vocational programs
in the short term translates into long-term gains
through reduced recidivism rates.762
Currently, however, vocational programs fail to meet
their full potential. “We were trained on stuff from
the dinosaur era,” noted Morgan.763 His experience
is not uncommon—incarcerated people report that
vocational programs often involve training on
outdated equipment no longer used outside of prison
walls.764 An audit of the Louisiana Prison Enterprises
program by the Legislative Auditor’s Office found
that one-third of incarcerated people working in

the program are trained for jobs that are projected
to decrease in the labor market, such as garment
factory work and agriculture.765 “This means many
of the offenders working for Prison Enterprises may
not be learning job skills that could help them after
they are released,” the Legislative Auditor’s Office
found.766 A state legislative audit of Mississippi’s
correctional industries program likewise found it
is providing “work skills in occupations for which
there were expected to be few to no job prospects in
Mississippi.”767
Nor is access to vocational programs widely available.
Only a fifth of incarcerated people nationwide
participate in vocational programs, leaving the other
700,000 or so workers to stagnate doing typically
lower-paid work.768 In Illinois, as state funding
for vocational programs provided by community
colleges has dropped, so too has participation in
and access to these programs.769 In 2002, around
6,000 incarcerated people participated in over 130
vocational programs. But just seven years later, the
number of vocational programs had fallen to 100,
leaving over a thousand fewer incarcerated people
with the opportunity to take part.770 N’Ashid Abdul
Latif, a formerly incarcerated worker, shared his
experience witnessing this regression first-hand in
California: “They took away the better jobs over time—
those that taught us engine repair and other valuable
trades. They should bring back jobs people can use
when they get home.”771
In general, people in prison struggle to secure prison
jobs that enhance their qualifications. UNICOR, a
program offering jobs with higher wages and a
semblance of skills training, has a waitlist of 25,000
people. Yet even within a program like UNICOR,
advancement is difficult.772 As a result, most cannot
access opportunities to get higher levels of training
and pay. Outside of coveted programs like UNICOR,
the story is similar. In Illinois, a prison might have
1,200 incarcerated people “but only a handful of jobs”
that provide vocational training.773 As with UNICOR,
waitlists for vocational programming in Illinois can
climb into the thousands.774

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Licensing Restrictions
About a quarter of jobs nationwide require
professional licenses—from cosmetology to barbering,
physical therapy, and work as a home health aide.775
To perform one of these jobs, an applicant needs
approval by a state-run licensing board.776 People
with conviction records, however, are often denied
such approval. Across the country, there are about
27,000 state licensing restrictions that keep people
with conviction records from licensed work.777 Over
two-thirds of these are permanent bans, completely
barring people with criminal histories from certain
professions.778
These state occupational licensing restrictions
often bar people with conviction records from work
in the very fields they trained in while incarcerated.
For instance, in some states people who worked as
hospice workers while incarcerated are categorically
barred from later working as home health aides or
in nursing homes simply because of their conviction
records, despite their experience compassionately
caring for sick, aging, and dying patients in prison.779
While some of these restrictions may be sensible—
barring people with child abuse convictions from
working with children, for example—many have no
rational relation to the job itself.780 In Alabama, for
example, engineers and land surveyors cannot have
been convicted of any felony, even nonviolent ones
unrelated to public safety.781 Until 2016, incarcerated
people trained as barbers in 14 states, spanning the
country from Connecticut to Arizona, were barred
from the profession upon release.782
Licensing requirements are steeped in arbitrary
discretion. Applicants are often required to have
“good moral character,” a standard without a
nationally uniform definition.783 A 2019 report from
the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights raised concerns
that lacking “good moral character” can describe
those convicted of “deadly weapons or firearms
offenses” in one state to those accused of “petty
offenses indicating an irresponsible attitude” in
another.784

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The problem of licensing restrictions is acute for
California firefighters. Most counties in California
require their firefighters to have an emergency
medical technician license—a license that is off-limits
to anyone with a single felony conviction from the
previous 10 years or who has ever been convicted
of two felonies.785 In September 2020, Governor
Newsom signed a bill to allow some incarcerated
firefighters to work professionally after serving
prison time.786 This legislation, while a step in the
right direction, still leaves unreasonable barriers in
place. Incarcerated firefighters make up 43 percent of
California’s fire crew,787 and until the bill was passed,
only a handful of formerly incarcerated firefighters
were allowed to continue working as firefighters upon
release. The reform bill allows for those formerly
incarcerated firefighters with certain low-level
felonies on their records to get them expunged,
allowing them to apply for the emergency medical
technician license.788 Expungements require going
to court, which can be difficult and time consuming,
particularly for those who leave prison with no
savings.789 Many remain barred from firefighting,
including those who have not gotten their convictions
expunged or are ineligible to do so, and in June 2022
a federal appeals upheld the licensing regulations
barring these formerly incarcerated people from
working as firefighters.790
Such draconian barriers take a toll on those denied
work, the states they live in, and the U.S. economy
as a whole. Licensed work pays between 10 and 15
percent more than unlicensed work—a wage gap that
can cut recidivism rates by as much as 50 percent.791
In fact, the more licensing restrictions a state has, the
higher its rate of recidivism.792 On a national level,
studies suggest these occupational licensing laws cost
the U.S. economy between $34.8 and $41.7 billion a
year.793 But the impact on incarcerated people is by
far the greatest. As Katherine Katcher, incarcerated
person rights advocate and founder of Root and
Rebound stated: “What’s the point of letting people
out if there’s still an invisible prison around them?”794

Photo © AP/John Russell

largest companies rarely hire people with felony
convictions.799
Daniel Tapia was incarcerated in Louisiana. While
in prison, he was trained as an auto mechanic and
worked outside the facility at a local auto shop. He
was eventually promoted to supervisor of the shop,
managing non-incarcerated workers.800 These days,
Tapia works as a case manager for The First 72+, a
reentry organization in New Orleans that provides
housing and employment opportunities for men
leaving prisons. He has received an honor by the
U.S. Chamber of Commerce for his work on reentry
services. And yet, he had been rejected for a job
cleaning toilets because of his time in prison.801

An incarcerated worker assembles office desks at Turney Center Prison and
Farm in Only, Tennessee.

Background Checks and
Discrimination
Even when formerly incarcerated people find jobs
they can apply for, reluctance by employers to hire
a person who has spent time in prison significantly
restricts access to these opportunities. Around half of
American employers run criminal background checks
on job applicants to screen them out.795 Despite there
being no evidence showing that formerly incarcerated
people perform worse than other workers, the stigma
surrounding any interaction with the carceral
system can be crippling. Aramark, for example, is a
multibillion-dollar company that, among other things,
serves food in prisons and buys food produced by
incarcerated workers in prisons.796 On its website, it
proudly states that it employs incarcerated people
in prison kitchens, which “help[s] rehabilitate
[offenders]” and “reduce[s] recidivism.”797 For
decades, however, Aramark would not hire anyone
who had committed a felony in the previous seven
years.798 Aramark is not alone—many of America’s

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Even when employers do not maintain official policies
against hiring formerly incarcerated individuals,
they often discriminate against them. Research has
shown that the mere presence of a criminal conviction
on a job application—all else being equal—is enough to
reduce a white applicant’s chances of being hired by
about 50 percent and a Black applicant’s chances by
about 66 percent.802 Even employers who say they are
willing to hire formerly incarcerated people end up
hiring them at similarly low rates to employers who
say they are not.803As a result, people with a criminal
conviction are half as likely to receive a callback
after an interview or a job offer than people without
one.804 The problem falls heaviest on Black applicants
with criminal records, who are less likely to receive
a callback from an employer who has expressed
sympathy for their incarceration than similarly
placed white applicants with criminal records.805
Recognizing such discriminatory impacts, 35 states
and 150 cities and counties across the country
have passed laws that prohibit employers from
asking about a job seeker’s criminal record on
their application form. These laws are commonly
referred to as “ban the box” legislation, named after
the checkbox on a job application that asks about
criminal records.806 A number of jurisdictions have
gone further and passed laws that stop employers
from asking about applicants’ criminal records until
after they have made a job offer.807

Yet their effectiveness in rooting out discrimination
is not yet clear.808 While some studies show promising
results, others have shown that ban-the-box laws push
discrimination elsewhere. Instead of discriminating
against people with conviction records in hiring,
some employers have ended up discriminating
against Black men.809 And as National Book Award
finalist and formerly incarcerated activist Albert
Woodfox put it, “people can just Google you. It doesn’t
matter.”810

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81

How Prison Labor in the U.S.
Violates Human Rights
After years of toiling in low-wage, undervalued work,
people leaving prison continue to carry the weight of
incarceration. Barriers—from job disqualification to
formal and informal discrimination—push some back
into prison, creating a vicious cycle of dead-end jobs
inside of prison and broken promises of rehabilitation
outside of it.
The United States has put in place a system of
domestic laws and policies designed to exploit
the labor of those incarcerated rather than to
strengthen their capacity to productively participate
in society and prepare them for reintegration after
release. As detailed above, many U.S. domestic
laws related to labor practices do not apply within
prisons. International human rights laws enshrining
fundamental protections—many of which are binding
on the United States—generally do not suffer from
these exemptions.
The conditions of labor inside U.S. prisons invoke
protections under customary and treaty-based
international law against slavery, forced labor, as well
as cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. The
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is
globally championed by the United States, prohibits
exploitative workplace practices,811 as well as “cruel,
inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”812
Importantly, these rights apply to all persons
“without distinction of any kind” by virtue of their
“inherent dignity.”813 The International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which the
United States has ratified, reinforces the applicability
of these rights and protections in the context of
incarceration. Specifically, it provides that “[a]ll
persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with
humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the

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human person.”814 The ICCPR also states that the
essential aim of the criminal justice system “shall be
their reformation and social rehabilitation.”815 The
Human Rights Committee, the authoritative U.N.
body that interprets the ICCPR, has further stated
that the ICCPR “imposes on States parties a positive
obligation towards persons who are particularly
vulnerable because of their status as persons
deprived of liberty.”816 While the ICCPR does allow
for the sentencing of imprisoned individuals to “hard”
labor, it does not allow for that labor to be exacted
under exploitative circumstances that violate basic
tenets of human dignity.817

The conditions of labor
inside U.S. prisons
invoke protections
under international
law against slavery,
forced labor, as well as
cruel, inhuman, and
degrading treatment.
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights, the authoritative U.N. body that interprets
the International Covenant on Economic, Social and
Cultural Rights, which the United States has signed

but not ratified, has explicitly stated that forced or
compulsory prison labor violates states’ obligation to
respect prisoners’ right to work. The committee said
states “are under the obligation to respect the right
to work by…prohibiting forced or compulsory labour
and refraining from denying or limiting equal access
to decent work for all persons…including prisoners.”818
The International Labour Organization (ILO)
Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29) requires
states parties to “suppress the use of forced or
compulsory labor” and defines forced or compulsory
labor as “all work or service which is exacted from
any person under the menace of any penalty and
for which the said person has not offered himself
voluntarily.” However, the Convention excludes the
labor exacted from any person as a consequence of a
conviction in a court of law, provided that their work
“is carried out under the supervision and control of
a public authority” and that the person “is not hired
to or placed at the disposal of private individuals,
companies or associations.”819 The Convention does
protect prisoners in privately run prisons or when
private entities employ or control prison labor.820

Although the United States has not ratified the
Forced Labour Convention (No. 29), the principles
enshrined in the latter instrument are still binding.
As a member of the ILO, the United States is bound
by the ILO’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles
and Rights at Work, which requires all ILO member
states to promote and realize, in good faith, the
principle of the elimination of all forms of forced
or compulsory labor irrespective of whether an
ILO member state has ratified the Forced Labour
Convention (No. 29).
The ILO Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957
(No. 105), which the United States ratified in 1991,
requires all ratifying countries to immediately and
completely abolish any form of forced or compulsory
labor (a) as a means of political coercion or education
or as a punishment for holding or expressing
political views or views ideologically opposed to the
established political, social, or economic system;
(b) as a method of mobilizing and using labor for
purposes of economic development; (c) as a means
of labor discipline; (d) as a punishment for having
participated in strikes; or (e) as a means of racial,
social, national, or religious discrimination.821

Photo © AP/Odessa American, Heather

The ILO’s Committee of Experts on the Application of
Conventions and Recommendations explicitly stated,
“This covers prison labor as well as other forms of
forced labour involving discrimination.”822 Under
the treaty, such forced or compulsory labor must be
abolished even if the person concerned was convicted
in a court of law and “even where the offence giving
rise to the punishment is a common offence which
does not otherwise come under the protection of
Article 1(a), (c), or (d) of the Convention.”823 The
Committee of Experts later clarified that the
treaty “requires the abolition of any discriminatory
distinctions made on racial or other grounds ‘in
exacting labour’ for the purpose of production or
service, and that situations in ‘which punishment
involving compulsory labour’ is meted out more
severely to certain groups defined in racial and other
terms, fall within the scope of the Convention.”824
\

I

An incarcerated worker mops the floor at the Brewster County Jail in Alpine,
Texas.

Other authoritative international sources and
instruments are relevant to clarifying the rights
of incarcerated workers under international

Captive Labor

83

human rights law. The U.N. Basic Principles for the
Treatment of Prisoners, adopted by U.N. General
Assembly in 1990, sets forth that “Conditions
shall be created enabling prisoners to undertake
meaningful remunerated employment which will
facilitate their reintegration into the country’s
labour market and permit them to contribute to their
own financial support and to that of their families.”
825
The Nelson Mandela Rules, adopted in 2015 by
the United Nations General Assembly, set forth the
international community’s contemporary standards
on prisoners’ rights and the role of labor in detention
facilities.826 The earlier Standard Minimum Rules for
the Treatment of Prisoners, before the 2015 revision,
contained a requirement for all prisoners to work;
however, in the version of rules that applies today,
the emphasis is on the need for work in prison to be
voluntary and for the purposes of rehabilitation.827
Regarding incarcerated women, the Nelson
Mandela Rules also have provisions regulating their
treatment.828 Women’s treatment in prison is further
regulated by a separate U.N. Guidelines: the United
Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners
and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders
(the Bangkok Rules). Although these rules do not
contain any specific regulations regarding women’s
work or working conditions, they do stress the
reintegration of women into society upon release.829
The expectations articulated by the Nelson Mandela
Rules, the Bangkok Rules, and other authoritative
international instruments are grounded in core
international standards of human rights and human
dignity. Moreover, principles like respect for human
dignity and prohibitions on forced and exploitative
labor are arguably at the core of established U.S.
constitutional protections. Yet when it comes
to incarcerated workers, their exclusion from
fundamental domestic legal protections, the absence
of regulation and accountability, and a thirst for costsavings and profit, have led the U.S. system of prison
labor down a very different path.

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In the survey circulated among incarcerated workers
as part of this study, 97 percent of respondents
expressed their view that work programs in
prisons needed to change. Indeed, prison labor
in the United States could look different. The
following recommendations, if enacted, would help
ameliorate the exploitative conditions of workers
in U.S. correctional institutions to ensure that
these conditions are brought up to par with those
of workers elsewhere. These recommendations
were developed in consultation with advocates and
incarcerated workers interviewed for this report.

Forced Labor—Recommended Reforms
Repeal federal and state constitutional clauses
excluding incarcerated people from bans on
slavery and forced labor.
• Congress should pass legislation repealing
the exception clause of the 13th Amendment
to the U.S. Constitution allowing slavery and
involuntary servitude to be used as punishment for
a criminal conviction, and states should ratify the
constitutional amendment.
• The legislatures and voters of the 20 states
whose constitutions contain language mirroring
the 13th Amendment exclusion of incarcerated
people (Alabama, Arkansas, California, Georgia,
Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana,
Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, North
Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee,
Vermont, and Wisconsin) should pass legislation
and approve voter referendums removing these
exception clauses from their state constitutions.
• The legislatures and voters of states whose
constitutions do not categorically ban slavery
and forced labor (such as Florida, New York, New
Jersey, and Texas, among others) should pass
legislation and approve voter referendums to
amend their constitutions to ban slavery and
forced labor with no exceptions.

Recommendations
Ensure that all work in prisons is fully
voluntary by eliminating any laws and policies
that require forced labor or impose adverse
consequences on incarcerated workers who are
unable or unwilling to work.
• State departments of corrections and the Federal
Bureau of Prisons should eliminate rules, policies,
and procedures that impose disciplinary measures
for work-related infractions such as refusal to
work or failure to complete work in a satisfactory
manner.
• Ban the use of disciplinary segregation/solitary
confinement for work-related infractions.
• Eliminate policies that negatively impact good
time, other reductions of sentence, parole
eligibility, or otherwise extend a person’s
incarceration for refusal to work and other workrelated infractions.

“Can we as a culture
say we believe in
forgiveness and second
chances yet continue to
allow these processes
to go unchallenged? I
say we cannot.”
— Worker incarcerated at Ironwood State Prison

• Policies ensuring that incarcerated people who
seek exemptions from work duties are granted
such exemptions when they are unable to do their
jobs due to illness, injury, disability, or other
physical or mental limitations.

Prison authorities should ensure incarcerated
workers who seek exemptions from work duties
are granted such exemptions when they are
unable to carry out their assigned jobs due to
illness, injury, disability, or other physical or
mental limitations.

• Training for staff on those policies and how to
implement them, along with monitoring to ensure
that prison health authorities provide approval for
work exemptions when incarcerated people are
unable to carry out assigned work duties and seek
such exemptions.

• State departments of corrections, the Federal
Bureau of Prisons, and prison administrators
should adopt policies and comply with existing
laws that require:

Arbitrary and Discriminatory Allocation
of Work Assignments—Recommended
Reforms

• Notice to incarcerated people of their right to ask
for reasonable modifications due to a disability.

Provide reasonable accommodations to
incarcerated people with disabilities who wish

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85

to work, to allow them to fully and equally
participate in work programs.

assignments and require equitable pay for those
enrolled in such programs.

• Prison authorities must comply with federal
disability rights laws, including the Americans
with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the
Rehabilitation Act. All prison activities, programs,
and services must be equally accessible to all
incarcerated people with disabilities.

• State departments of corrections and the Federal
Bureau of Prisons should adopt policies ensuring
that incarcerated workers’ work assignments are
not changed or taken away arbitrarily and provide
a meaningful process for incarcerated workers to
appeal decisions about their work assignments.

• When an incarcerated person with a disability
wishes to work or participate in vocational or
educational programs, prisons must have a system
to provide reasonable modifications to allow them
to fully and equally participate in such programs,
such as modifying the job requirements to make
them accessible.

• Correctional institutions should adopt and
implement robust measures to eliminate
discrimination, racial profiling, sexual
harassment and abuse, and arbitrary decisionmaking by prison officials responsible for
allocating job assignments and supervising
incarcerated workers on the job.

• While it is possible that some jobs may not be
possible to modify for every or any individual
(e.g. a job driving a bus is not an option for a blind
person), prisons have the obligation to ensure a
range of jobs are equally accessible and available to
incarcerated people with disabilities.

• Congress should enact legislation that ensures
that all incarcerated workers are protected
under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
and that requires that any grievances related to
discrimination in job allocation and treatment are
responded to in an efficient and impartial manner
by prison authorities.

• Prisons must ensure that they are not excluding
people with disabilities from work based on
stereotypes or assumptions about people with
disabilities.
Adopt laws and policies to ensure work
assignments are not allocated or taken away in
an arbitrary or discriminatory manner and take
incarcerated people’s preferences into account
when selecting job assignments.
• State departments of corrections and the Federal
Bureau of Prisons should adopt policies that
require prison officials to take incarcerated
individuals’ preferences into account when
selecting job assignments and programming,
setting their workload, and before making changes
to or taking away their jobs.
• Prison authorities should permit incarcerated
individuals to choose education, vocational, or
rehabilitation programming in lieu of work

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Work Conditions and Labor Protections—
Recommended Reforms
Amend federal and state laws to ensure that
incarcerated workers enjoy the standard labor
protections available to other workers in the
United States with regard to minimum wages,
overtime pay, health and safety standards,
unionization and collective bargaining, and
protection from discrimination and retaliation,
among other protections.
• Congress should clarify the meaning of “employee”
in all labor-related legislation (including the
Fair Labor Standards Act, the National Labor
Relations Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964, and the Occupational Safety and Health Act)
to explicitly include incarcerated workers within
that definition.
• State legislatures should similarly clarify the
meaning of “employee” in all labor-related

legislation, including state minimum wage laws,
union legislation and collective bargaining laws,
health and safety laws, sexual harassment and
anti-discrimination laws, to explicitly include
incarcerated workers within that definition.
• Congress should enact further legal protections for
incarcerated workers considering their particular
vulnerabilities as a captive labor force, such as antiretaliation protections for incarcerated workers
who report unsafe working conditions to relevant
authorities.
Ensure incarcerated workers are paid
prevailing wages no less than the minimum
wage of the state where they work and eliminate
or limit wage deductions.
• Congress should amend the Fair Labor Standards
Act to include incarcerated workers or otherwise
pass legislation ensuring that workers in federal
prisons are paid prevailing wages no less than the
minimum wage of the state where they work or the
federal minimum wage, whichever is higher.
• State legislatures should pass legislation ensuring
that workers in prisons receive the prevailing
wages in the states or territories where they work,
no less than the minimum wage of the state where
they work.
• Until incarcerated workers are paid the state
minimum wage, states and the federal government
may phase in the wage increase, starting with a
wage of no less than half of the state minimum
wage.
• Congress, state legislatures, the Federal Bureau
of Prisons, and state departments of corrections
should adopt policies eliminating or limiting
wage deductions to no more than 20 percent of
incarcerated workers’ wages, solely to be used
to cover legal obligations such as child support.
Cease all deductions for room and board, costs
of incarceration, prison capital improvement or
construction funds, to support prison industries,
or to otherwise sustain and expand incarceration.

• Private companies that employ incarcerated
workers or otherwise benefit from their labor
should ensure that workers are paid prevailing
wages for their labor even if employers are not
PIECP-certified. Private employers should ensure
that wage deductions are limited to no more than
20 percent of workers’ wages.
Amend occupational health and safety and
workers’ compensation laws that exclude most
incarcerated workers from their coverage,
ensure federal and state occupational health
and safety administrations monitor conditions
in all workplaces inside prisons, and provide
adequate personal protective and safety
equipment to incarcerated workers.
• Congress should amend the Occupational Safety
and Health Act to include correctional institutions
operated by state and local governments as
employers under the law.
• The U.S. Department of Labor should issue a
regulation granting the Occupational Safety and
Health Administration jurisdiction over the labor
conditions of all workers incarcerated in federal,
state, and local prisons.
• State legislatures should amend state occupational
health and safety and workers’ compensation laws
to include incarcerated workers.
• Federal, state, and local governments should
ensure that their respective occupational health
and safety administrations conduct routine and
comprehensive inspections of all workplaces
inside prisons and should make the results of these
investigations public.
• Prison authorities should ensure that all
incarcerated workers receive adequate personal
protective equipment and safety equipment to
minimize risks and exposure to hazards that cause
workplace injuries and illnesses.

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87

Institute mandatory safety standards and
comprehensive safety training programs for all
work assignments in correctional institutions.
• Comprehensive safety training should include
mandatory safety standards, injury and illness
prevention, job-specific training on identified
hazards (e.g., industry, construction, agriculture,
hazardous chemicals), and proper use of personal
protective equipment and safety equipment.
• Correctional institutions should make safety
training available as part of orientation in any
work assignment and provide supplementary and
recurrent training as needed.
• Correctional institutions should ensure that this
training is delivered by competent professionals
who treat incarcerated workers with respect for
their dignity and rights.
Include work performed by incarcerated
workers under covered employment eligible
for Social Security, Medicare, disability,
unemployment insurance, Earned Income Tax
Credit, and Child Tax Credit benefits, making
it possible for incarcerated workers to earn
toward and receive future benefits.
• Congress should amend the Federal Insurance
Contributions Act (FICA) to remove the
exclusion of work performed by incarcerated
workers as covered employment, so that the time
incarcerated workers spend working while in
prison may contribute toward earning Social
Security, Medicare, and Social Security Disability
Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Also amend FICA to
require employers—either prisons or private
businesses employing incarcerated workers—to
pay both employer and employee contributions to
FICA when incarcerated workers are not earning
minimum wage.
• Congress should amend the Social Security Act so
that incarcerated workers qualify for four quarters
of credit each year to earn Social Security,
Medicare, and SSDI benefits when incarcerated
workers are not earning minimum wage.

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• Congress should amend the Federal
Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA), and state
legislatures should amend state unemployment
statutes to ensure that work performed by
incarcerated workers counts toward the accrual
of unemployment insurance benefits, so that
incarcerated workers receive the same protections
as other workers offered by the unemployment
insurance system if they cannot find work upon
their release from prison or lose their jobs while in
prison through no fault of their own.
• State unemployment agencies should interpret
existing state unemployment statutes to mean
that incarcerated workers will be able to collect
unemployment insurance benefits if they are later
released from prison and unable to find work.
• Congress should amend the FUTA, and state
legislatures should amend state unemployment
statutes to waive or adjust base period earnings
requirements, so that incarcerated workers being
paid below minimum wage will be eligible to
earn toward and receive future unemployment
insurance benefits.
• The Social Security Administration, the
Department of Health and Human Services’
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the
Department of Labor, and state unemployment
agencies should adopt or endorse policies that
make it possible for incarcerated workers to earn
towards and receive Social Security, Medicare,
and unemployment insurance benefits, including
the waiver or adjustment of base period earnings
requirements.
• Congress should amend the Internal Revenue
Code to remove the exclusion of wages earned
while the worker is incarcerated from the earnings
that earn toward the Earned Income Tax Credit
and the Child Tax Credit.

Recognize incarcerated people’s right to
associate and permit incarcerated workers to
form labor unions and bargain collectively so
that workers can negotiate improved working
conditions for themselves.
• Prison authorities including state departments of
corrections, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and
prison administrators should allow incarcerated
workers to organize and form or join labor unions,
meet regularly, and form collective bargaining
units.
• The National Labor Relations Board should
declare that incarcerated people are employees
who are eligible to join a union.
• State public employee relations boards should
declare that incarcerated workers who are
employed by the state are public employees who
are eligible to join a union.
• State legislatures should amend public employee
collective bargaining statutes to include
incarcerated workers employed by the state in
their definition of “public employee” and to permit
the association of incarcerated public employees to
engage in collective bargaining.

certifications of work performance achievements,
and employment-based recommendation letters
from supervisors. Programs should provide
vocational training in professions that are forecast
for job growth.
• Expand post-release employment services to
connect incarcerated workers to long-term
employment after their release. Incarcerated
workers should be released from prison with a
guaranteed, secure job placement.
• The federal and state governments should expand
access to post-secondary education in prison
by reinstating Pell grants in all U.S. states and
territories, to increase employment rates and
earnings for the formerly incarcerated.

Access to Remedies—Recommended
Reforms
Ensure that incarcerated workers have
adequate and speedy access to redress when
their rights are violated.

• Existing labor unions, including public sector
unions, should endorse the right of incarcerated
workers to join a union.

• Congress should repeal the Prison Litigation
Reform Act so that incarcerated individuals have
equal access to judicial and broader administrative
agency (beyond state departments of corrections)
avenues for redress when their rights are violated.
State legislatures should repeal similar legislation.

Work Programs—
Recommended Reforms

• Correctional institutions should eliminate
burdensome administrative barriers, such as
strict timelines and fees, from internal grievance
processes.

Invest in valuable work and education programs
designed to enhance incarcerated individuals’
prospects of securing employment and
becoming self-sufficient upon release.
• The federal and state governments should allocate
funding for prison work programs that provide
incarcerated workers with marketable skills and
training that will help them to find employment
after release.

• Correctional institutions should ensure that
complaints regarding unsafe conditions and
abusive staff treatment are processed and
addressed by correctional administrators in a
timely fashion.
• The federal and state governments should
recognize and implement the right of incarcerated
individuals to receive workers’ compensation when
they are injured or killed on the job.

• Programs should provide opportunities for
advancement, certifications of completed training,

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89

Reentry Policy—Recommended Reforms
Eliminate occupational licensing restrictions,
adopt comprehensive fair-chance hiring
policies, and pass ban-the-box statutes to reduce
discrimination against formerly incarcerated
people and remove barriers to securing
employment after release.
• Federal and state governments should eliminate
occupational licensing restrictions that
categorically disqualify people with convictions. At
a minimum, ensure that any licensing restrictions
and permanent bans from certain professions are
rationally related to the requirements of the job.
• Occupational licensing boards should ensure
conviction and arrest records are not an automatic
disqualifier from occupational licensing,
particularly if the conviction has no relation to the
responsibility and qualifications for the license or
certification being sought.
• States that have not already done so should adopt
comprehensive fair-chance hiring laws or policies
for public-sector employment.
• State legislatures that have not already done
so should pass ban-the-box statutes prohibiting
private employers from asking about an
applicant’s conviction or arrest record on job
applications and requiring private employers to
delay inquiring about conviction and arrest history
until later in the hiring process, usually after a
conditional offer of employment has been made.
• Federal and state governments should monitor
the existence of barriers to securing employment
and formal and informal discrimination against
formerly incarcerated individuals in hiring, access
to promotions, and other aspects of the labor
market, and should take steps to eliminate those
practices.

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ACLU Research Report

Acknowledgments
This report was a collaborative project between
the American Civil Liberties Union Human Rights
Program and the Global Human Rights Clinic of
the University of Chicago Law School. The primary
author of this report is Jennifer Turner, Principal
Human Rights Researcher, ACLU Human Rights
Program. The co-authors of this report are a team
of students and faculty of the Global Human Rights
Clinic (GHRC) at the University of Chicago Law
School. The GHRC drafting and research team
includes: Mariana Olaizola Rosenblat and Nino
Guruli, Lecturer and Former Lecturer, respectively,
in GHRC; Claudia Maria Flores, Clinical Professor
of Law at the University of Chicago Law School and
Director, GHRC; GHRC law students Sophie Desch,
Katya El Tayeb, Leena Elsadek, Eric Singerman,
Joseph Nunn, Monika Weisman, Genevieve
Auld, and Aaron Tucek; and GHRC interns Nico
Thompson-Lleras and Johnny Walker. In addition
to contributing to the drafting and research of
the report, the GHRC filed FOIA requests in 50
states, conducted the three-state written survey of
incarcerated workers, and conducted interviews with
current and formerly incarcerated workers included
in this report, including on-site field research in
Louisiana. Data analysis was conducted by Jennifer
Turner, ACLU Principal Human Rights Researcher,
and Emily Greytak, ACLU Research Director.
Invaluable support was provided by Simone Gewirth
and Elizabeth Lindberg, Legal Assistants, Global
Human Rights Clinic, University of Chicago Law
School. Nicolás Aramayo, Paralegal, ACLU Human
Rights Program, cite-checked the report and assisted
with formatting the endnotes.

The report was reviewed by Jamil Dakwar, Director,
ACLU Human Rights Program; Emily Greytak, ACLU
Research Director; Cyrus O’Brien, ACLU Research
Fellow; David Fathi, Director, ACLU National Prison
Project; Corene Kendrick, Deputy Director, ACLU
National Prison Project; Jennifer Wedekind, Senior
Staff Attorney, ACLU National Prison Project; Tara
Stutsman, Campaign Strategist, ACLU National
Political Advocacy Department, Justice Division;
Udi Ofer, ACLU Deputy National Political Director
and Director of the Justice Division; Susan Mizner,
Director, ACLU Disability Rights Program; Zoe
Brennan-Krohn, Staff Attorney, ACLU Disability
Rights Program; Elizabeth Bradford, ACLU Co-Chief
Corporate Counsel; Nora Ahmed, Legal Director,
ACLU of Louisiana; Chantal Stevens, Executive
Director, ACLU of North Carolina; C. Daniel Bowes,
Director of Policy and Advocacy, ACLU of North
Carolina; Lauren Bramwell, Policy Strategist, ACLU
of Idaho; Lauren Johnson, Policy and Advocacy
Strategist, ACLU of Texas; Lisa Zucker, Senior
Attorney for Legislative Affairs, New York Civil
Liberties Union; and Mica Doctoroff, Staff Attorney
for the Criminal Justice Program at the ACLU of
Northern California.
First and foremost, we wish to thank the participants
who shared their experiences and insights through
interviews and written questionnaires for this
research study. We are grateful to them for trusting
us with their stories and sharing their invaluable
insights.
We are grateful for the insights and expertise of
Syrita Steib-Martin, Dolfinette Martin, Montrell
Carmouche, and Latrice Romar-Carmon of Operation
Restoration; Robert Jones, Jerome Morgan, and

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91

Daniel Rideau, Co-founders of Free-Dem Foundations;
Bruce Reilly, Deputy Director, VOTE; Bikila Ochoa,
Deputy Director, Michael Mendoza, Director of
Advocacy, Esteban Núñez, Chief Strategy Consultant,
and Josh Pynoos, Public Policy Associate, of the
Anti-Recidivism Coalition; Daniel Tapia, Programs
Manager, The First 72+; Bianca Tylek, Executive
Director of Worth Rises; Savannah Eldrige and David
Johnson, Co-founders of the Coalition to Abolish
Slavery in Texas; Kamau Waset Allen, Community
Organizer with Together Colorado; Emily Harris,
Policy Director, Ella Baker Center for Human
Rights; Amani Sawari of Jailhouse Lawyers Speak;
Romarilyn Ralston, Program Director, and James
“JC” Cavitt, Housing and Outreach Coordinator, of
Project Rebound; Patrick Holmes, Case Manager,
Financial Access Inclusion and Resources (FAIR)
Program, Disability Rights Louisiana; Amika Mota,
Policy Director, Young Women’s Freedom Center;
Blanca Ruiz-Thompson, Program Director, Reentry
Relief Project; Robert Thibault, Ben Prostine, and
Eugenia Afinoguénova of the Incarcerated Workers
Organizing Committee (IWOC) Milwaukee chapter;
Brooke Terpstra, Organizer, IWOC Oakland chapter;
Courtney Montoya, IWOC New Mexico chapter;
Brianna Peril, founding member of IWOC; Sarah
Grady, Partner, Loevy & Loevy; Robert George,
Senior Research Fellow, Chapin Hall; Jennifer VollenKatz, Executive Director, John Howard Association
of Illinois; Gwyneth Troyer, Director, Prison
Monitoring, John Howard Association of Illinois;
Garien Gatewood, Director, Illinois Justice Project;
Alan Mills, Executive Director, Uptown People’s
Law Center; Sydney Heller, Executive Director, The
Last Mile; Ted Mermin, Executive Director, Berkeley
Center for Consumer Law and Economic Justice;
Rebecca Silbert, Senior Director, Rising Scholars
at Foundation for California Community Colleges;
Brantly Choate, Director, Division of Rehabilitative
Programs, California Department of Corrections;
Kelly Savage-Rodriguez, Drop LWOP Program
Coordinator, California Coalition for Women
Prisoners; Marvin Mutch, Director of Advocacy,
Prisoner Re-entry Network; John Fabricius,
Executive Director, Arizonans for Transparency
and Accountability in Corrections; Erica Marshall,
Executive Director, Idaho Justice Project; Nick

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ACLU Research Report

Allen, Deputy Director of Advocacy, Columbia Legal
Services; Amanda Anholt, Attorney, Equip for
Equality; Alesha Monteiro, Advocacy Fellow, Essie
Justice Group; Zachary Crow, Executive Director,
decARcerate; Jorge Antonio Renaud, National
Criminal Justice Director, LatinoJustice PRLDEF;
Jodi Hocking, Founder, Return Strong Families
United for Justice for the Incarcerated; Wendy
Sawyer, Research Director of the Prison Policy
Initiative; Dr. Nikki Holmes, Acting Director, Office
of Federal Agency Programs; Vanessa Nelson-Sloane
of Life Support Alliance; Jacalyn Goldzweig Panitz,
Paralegal Casehandler, Employment Law Unit, Legal
Aid Society NYC; Ariel Ashleigh Smallwood, Staff
Attorney, Racial Justice Unit, Legal Aid Society
NYC; John C. Philo, Executive Director, Maurice
& Jane Sugar Law Center for Economic & Social
Justice; Colin Meyn, Associate Editor, The Hill; Beth
Schwartzapfel, Staff Writer, The Marshall Project;
Wayne Thomas; Hakeen Sakur; and Albert Woodfox.
This work greatly benefitted from the insights of
Andrea Armstrong, Professor of Law, Loyola College
of Law; Michele Deitch, Senior Lecturer, University
of Texas at Austin; Michael Gibson-Light, Assistant
Professor of Sociology, University of Denver; Eric
Seligman, Adjunct Professor of Economics, John
Jay College, School of Labor & Urban Studies, City
University of New York; Geert Dhondt, Associate
Professor of Economics, John Jay College, City
University of New York; John Pfaff, Professor of
Law, Fordham University School of Law; Heather
Schoenfeld, Associate Professor of Sociology, Boston
University; Sheila Bedi, Clinical Professor of Law,
Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law;
and Stephanie Hunter McMahon, Professor of Law,
Cincinnati College of Law.
We are also grateful to ACLU affiliates who
contributed to the development of this project and
outreach to impacted people and experts, including
Chris Kaiser, Advocacy Director of the ACLU of
Louisiana; A’Niya Robinson, Advocacy Strategist at
the ACLU of Louisiana; Katie Schwartzmann, former
Legal Director of the ACLU of Louisiana; Camille
Bennett, Director, Corrections Reform Project of
the ACLU of Illinois; Benjamin Ruddell, Criminal

Justice Policy Attorney, ACLU of Illinois; Yoel Y.
Haile, Director of the Criminal Justice Program at
the ACLU of Northern California; and Lizzie Buchen,
former Director of the Criminal Justice Program at
the ACLU of Northern California.
Additional thanks to other ACLU staff who provided
support on various aspects of the report, including
Aaron Madrid-Aksoz, Communications Strategist;
Neil Shovelin, Creative Director; Tim Merrill,
copyeditor; and Patrick Moroney, graphic designer.

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Appendix
Number of Incarcerated
Workers by State
The following Table A, based on publicly available
data and responses to FOIA requests we filed
with state departments of corrections, details the
number of incarcerated workers in state and federal
prisons for the jurisdictions where we were able to

obtain such data. Numerous state departments of
corrections and the Federal Bureau of Prisons either
did not respond to the FOIA requests we filed or
claimed not to be able to provide such data. The year
for the data differs by state, which varies from 2018
to 2021 and is specified in the endnotes. The table
contains the most recent available data for each state.

TABLE A

State

Number of
incarcerated workers

Federal prisons

Total not publicly available

16,315 employed in Federal Prison Industries, Inc. (UNICOR) in fiscal
year 2021.830 These UNICOR workers constitute only 8 percent of
work-eligible people incarcerated in federal prisons; the rest work
in Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) institutional jobs to support the
running and maintenance of the prison facilities.831 BOP has not
published data on institutional job assignments and did not respond
to the FOIA request we filed.

Alabama

Total not publicly available

313 work for Alabama Correctional Industries, 955 employed in the
work-release program, and 1,485 employed in work centers.832 The
Alabama Department of Corrections has not published data on other
work assignments and did not provide the data requested in our FOIA.

Arizona

18,097833

15,035 employed in the Work Incentive Pay Program, which
are assignments on prison grounds to support the running and
maintenance of the prison facilities. 1,083 work for other local, county,
or other state agencies through Intergovernmental Agreements. 1,979
work for Arizona Correctional Industries (ACI), 974 of whom work for
outside employers through labor contracts and 1,005 of whom work
for ACI-owned and -operated industries.

Arkansas

7,837834

2,804 work in agriculture and on “hoe squads,” 1,650 work in building
maintenance, 1,272 work in kitchen/food service, 1,959 work as
porters, and 421 work for prison industries.

California

64,788835

7,048 work for California Industry Prison Authority prison industries,
57,740 work for the California Department of Corrections and
Rehabilitation,836 which includes 1,600 working for conservation fire
camps.837

Colorado

10,392838

1,541 work for Colorado Correctional Industries.839

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Notes on distribution of jobs by type

State

Number of
incarcerated workers

Florida

Total not publicly available

2,579 work for PRIDE prison industries and about 3,500 work on state
road crews and community work squads.840 Florida Department of
Corrections has not published data on other work assignments and
did not respond to the FOIA request we filed.

Illinois

Total not publicly available

1,120 work for Illinois Correctional Industries each year.841

Kansas

Total not publicly available

1,100 work for Kansas Correctional Industries, which constitutes 13
percent of the incarcerated workforce in Kansas prisons.842

Maryland

13,242843

11,726 work for the Maryland Department of Corrections and 1,516
work for Maryland Correctional Enterprises (prison industries).

Missouri

Total not publicly available

1,432 work for Missouri Vocational Enterprises (prison industries).844
Missouri Department of Corrections has not published data on other
incarcerated workers and did not respond to the FOIA request we
filed.

Montana

16,430845

About 700 incarcerated workers are employed in Montana
Correctional Enterprises, with job assignments in agriculture,
wildland fire crews, vehicle restoration services, laundry, canteen,
food factories producing meals for public institutions, manufacturing,
and other industrial work for government agencies and private sector
businesses.846

Nebraska

3,092847

About 500 incarcerated workers are employed in Cornhusker State
Industries (prison industries) per year.848

Nevada

Total not publicly available

1,500 employed per year in the Nevada Division of Forestry
conservation camps and 655 work for Silver State Industries (prison
industries).849 Nevada Department of Corrections has not published
data on other incarcerated workers and did not respond to the FOIA
request we filed.

New Hampshire

1,244850

627 incarcerated workers with unskilled facilities jobs, 284 with
skilled facilities jobs, 203 with correctional industries jobs, and 28
with unskilled jobs and two with skilled jobs for entities other than
the Department of Corrections.

New York

About 31,000851

1,850 employed in Corcraft, the New York correctional industries
program.852

North Carolina

13,142853

5,592 work in unit services performing janitorial and general
maintenance duties; 2,624 work in food service, preparing and serving
meals; 1,559 work in prison maintenance such as groundskeeping,
light construction, repair, and maintenance projects at the prisons;
1,245 work inside the prison in industry jobs for Carolina Correction
Enterprises; 161 work on new prison construction projects; and 1,006
have jobs categorized as “other jobs.”854 Up to 73 at a time work
as firefighters through the BRIDGE Program, a cooperative effort
between the North Carolina Forest Service and the North Carolina
Department of Public Safety.855 During fiscal year 2020–2021, jobs
outside the prisons were significantly curtailed due to COVID-19
restrictions, and only 207 worked for state and local governments to
provide janitorial services and groundskeeping, 204 worked on road
squads, and 544 worked on work release.856 Prior to the COVID-19
pandemic, in fiscal year 2019–2020, 466 worked on road squads for
the state Department of Transportation, 514 worked on manual labor
jobs for state and local governments, and 1,218 were employed in
work-release programs.857

North Dakota

1,505858

About 170 work for Rough Rider Industries (prison industries).859

Ohio

Total not publicly available

1,382 work for Ohio Penal Industries.860 Ohio Department of
Rehabilitation & Correction has not published data on other work
assignments and did not provide the data requested in the FOIA we
filed.

Notes on distribution of jobs by type

Captive Labor

95

State

Number of
incarcerated workers

Pennsylvania

30,491

28,840 work in institutional jobs for the Pennsylvania Department of
Corrections; 1,651 work in prison industries jobs.

Rhode Island

2,163862

154 work in prison industries jobs.

South Carolina

14,786

13,011 work in institutional jobs; 562 work for the labor crew/work
program; 647 work for prison industries private sector; and 566 work
for state prison industries.

Tennessee

At least 7,724864

5,000 work in support services inside the prisons; more than 1,000
work as teacher aides, counselor aides, clerks, and library assistants;
and 1,724 work for TRICOR prison industries.

Texas

121,247865

121,167 incarcerated workers work for the Texas Department
of Criminal Justice on duties related to agriculture, industry,
maintenance, food services, laundry, and other forms of unit and
agency support.866 2,701 of these workers work for Texas Correctional
Industries.867 About 80 people work in the PIECP program.

Virginia

About 16,000868

1,100 work for Virginia Correctional Enterprises (prison industries).

Washington

8,392

6,039 have facilities jobs (Class 3);870 542 have jobs on community
work crews and as forestry/fire camp workers (Class 4);871 and 1,811
work for Washington Correctional Industries (Class 2).872 The total
figure excludes workers working for private companies through the
Prison Industries Enhancement Program (Class 1), as the number has
not been made public.

West Virginia

1,010873

58 are employed in correctional industries.

Wisconsin

15,724874

14,284 institutional job assignments; 569 work assignments in
Badger State Industries (prison industries); and 871 work-release
assignments. These numbers, provided by the Wisconsin Department
of Corrections, are the total number of work assignments for calendar
year 2021. The actual number of workers with work assignments may
be lower because workers may hold more than one work assignment.

861

863

869

Notes on distribution of jobs by type

The Wages Paid to Incarcerated
Workers in Each State and in
Federal Prisons
The following Table B, based on publicly available pay
scales and wage policies that apply to incarcerated
workers in state and federal prisons, as well as
responses to FOIA requests we filed with the
Federal Bureau of Prisons and state departments
of corrections seeking such information, details the
wages paid to incarcerated workers in each state and
the federal prison system. The table indicates a few
instances in which data is not publicly available and
the state department of corrections did not respond
to our FOIA requests.
The table divides work assignments into two
categories: work for state-owned correctional

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ACLU Research Report

industries and all non-industry jobs. State-owned
correctional industries jobs usually have separate
pay scales and generally pay higher wages; these
account for about 6.5 percent of prison jobs overall.
Non-industry jobs include all jobs operated by state
correctional agencies, a broad category that includes
prison maintenance work such as janitorial duties,
grounds maintenance, food preparation, other
kitchen duties, laundry, and repair jobs; a variety of
skilled or specialized work assignments; commissary
jobs; work camps; and other off-site jobs.
The vast majority of workers have jobs that support
the operation of the prison facilities and are generally
compensated at the lower end of the non-industry
pay scales noted in the table below. The pay scales for
non-industry jobs include uncommon jobs that pay
at the higher end of the pay scales noted in the table.
State departments of correction report non-industry

compensation policies differently—some by the hour,
others by the day, week, or the month—and the table
follows the format of reported pay scales.
Excluded from this table are work-release jobs
and jobs working for private companies through

the Prison Industry Enhancement Certification
Program (PIECP); the latter pays prevailing wages
by law and constitutes less than 1 percent of all work
assignments.

TABLE B
Pay scale:
Non-industry
jobs

Pay scale:
Jobs in state-owned
correctional industries

Federal prisons

$0.12 to $0.40 per
hour875

$0.23 to $1.15 per hour876

Only 8 percent of work-eligible people
incarcerated in federal prisons have
correctional industries jobs with Federal
Prison Industries, Inc. (UNICOR).877 The rest
work in Federal Bureau of Prisons institutional
jobs to support the running and maintenance
of the prison facilities and are paid on the nonindustry pay scale.878

Alabama

$0879

$0.25 to $0.75 per hour880

All institutional and community work crew
assignments are unpaid. Only workers in workrelease or work-center programs and prison
industry jobs are paid.881

Alaska

$0.30 to $0.90
per hour882

Alaska no longer has a
correctional industries
program.

Work for long-term construction projects pay
up to $0.75 to $1.25 per hour. Community work
projects pay up to $1 per hour.

Arizona

$0.15 to $0.45 per
hour883

$0.23 to $1.00 per hour884

Workers who are not literate are paid $0.10 per
hour.

Arkansas

$0885

$0886

Correctional agency-operated correctional
industry jobs are unpaid; only PIECP jobs
in which incarcerated workers are directly
employed by private companies are paid.887

California

$0.08 to $0.37 per
hour888

$0.35 to $1.00 per hour889

Laborers are paid $0.08 to $0.13 per hour;
semi-skilled workers are paid $0.11 to $0.18
per hour. Some jobs are unpaid, including
vocational student assignments. Firefighters
are generally paid $1.45 per day and $1 per
hour for emergency firefighting.

Colorado

$0.33 to $1.61 per
hour890

$0.86 to $2.49 per hour891

Pay differs by job; the majority of jobs pay
$0.86 per hour. Under a new law passed in
March 2022, incarcerated workers employed
by private companies (“an external program for
a private person or entity”) through Colorado
Correctional Industries must be paid the state
minimum wage.892

Connecticut

$0.75 to $1.75 per
day893

$0.30 to $1.50 per hour894

Jobs in prison commissary pay $0.30 to $0.90
per hour.

Delaware

Not publicly
available

$0.25 to $2.00 per hour895

Florida

$0 for nearly all
jobs; some jobs
are paid up to $50
per month896

$0.20 to $0.95 per hour897

State

Notes

Nearly all regular non-industry jobs are unpaid.
The only jobs that pay are work-release center
assignments, canteen assignments, and staff
barbers and staff shoe shiners, which are
compensated at a maximum of $50 per month.
Public works jobs are generally unpaid but may
be compensated up to $20 per month.898

Captive Labor

97

State

Pay scale:
Non-industry
jobs

Pay scale:
Jobs in state-owned
correctional industries

Georgia

$0899

$0900

Nearly all jobs are unpaid, including
firefighters and community work crews.901
Correctional agency-operated correctional
industry jobs are unpaid; only PIECP jobs
in which incarcerated workers are directly
employed by private companies are paid.902

Hawaii

$0.25 to $1.00 per
hour903

$0.50 to $2.50 per hour904

Facility jobs are paid $0.25 per hour.
Community work jobs are paid $0.25 to $1.00
per hour.

Idaho

$0.20 to $0.90
per hour905

Not publicly available

Non-industry jobs in the prisons are paid
$0.20 to $0.40 per hour. Work camps pay
$0.50 to $0.90 per hour. Vocational work
crews working outside prisons pay $0.50 (for
low-skilled workers) to $1.50 (for fire crew lead
workers).906

Illinois

$0.85 to $2.50
per day907

$0.30 to $2.40 per hour908

General laborers (which includes jobs as
lawn workers, laundry handlers, janitors,
commissary workers, and others) are paid
$0.85 to $1.10 per day, or $17 to $22 per
month. Correctional industries jobs in laundry
and meat processing are based on pounds
laundered/produced.

Indiana

$0.12 to $0.25 per
hour909

$0.30 to $0.55 per hour910

Iowa

$0.28 to $0.71 per
hour911

$0.70 to $0.95 per hour912

Kansas

$0.45 to $1.05 per
day913

$0.25 to $3.00 per hour914

Kentucky

$0.48 to $1.58 per
day915

Not publicly available

Four-hour jobs are paid at $0.48 to $0.97 per
day; eight-hour jobs are paid at $0.79 to $1.58
per day. Special assignments are $1.21 to $2.42
per day.

Louisiana

$0.02 to $0.04
per hour916

$0.02 to $0.40 per hour917

Work in cellblocks and field lines pays $0.02
per hour. Vocational programs pay $0.04 per
hour. Legal workers and educational tutors are
paid on a different pay scale, at $0.25 to $0.80
per hour.918 Some incarcerated workers must
work for an initial period of up to three years
without pay until they are eligible to be paid.919
Eligible incarcerated people may choose
between earning a wage and receiving “good
time” credits off their sentence.920

Maine

$0 to $220 per
month921

$0.50 to $2.80 per hour922

Pay varies by prison. Some prisons do not
pay at all for laundry, kitchen, cleaning, and
grounds-keeping work.

Maryland

$0.90 to $2.75 per
day923

$0.17 to $1.16 per hour924

Jobs classified as unskilled pay $0.90 to $1.15
per day; semi-skilled are paid $0.95 to $1.25
per day; skilled are paid $1.05 to $1.35 per day.

Massachusetts

$1 to $2 per day
generally; $5 to
$25 per week925

$0.40 to $1.55 per hour926

Pay varies by prison.

Michigan

$0.74 to $1.77 per
day927

Not publicly available

The standard pay scale is $0.74 to $1.77 per
day. Food service jobs are paid $0.18 to $0.38
per hour. Jobs with advanced education/
training pay $2.08 to $3.34 per day.

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ACLU Research Report

Notes

Pay scale:
Non-industry
jobs

Pay scale:
Jobs in state-owned
correctional industries

Minnesota

$0.25 to $1.00 per
hour928

$0.50 to $2.00 per hour929

Mississippi

$0 for most
jobs930

$0.20 to $1.30 per hour931

Missouri

$7.50 to $8.50 per
month933

$0.30 to $0.71 per hour934

Montana

$0.35 to $0.45
per hour, $1.25 to
$4.50 per day935

$0.40 to $0.60 per hour,
$1.70 to $5.00 per day936

Most wages are set daily, while others such as
food service and laundry jobs are set daily.

Nebraska

$1.21 to $4.72
per day; $0.38 to
$1.50 per hour937

$0.38 to $1.08 per hour938

Most non-industry jobs are paid per day.
Laborers are paid $1.21 per day, and skilled
non-industry workers are paid $2.24 per day.
Health porters and workers on designated
work detail are the only non-industry workers
who are paid hourly.

Nevada

$0 for some
jobs; pay scale
for paid jobs
is not publicly
available939

$0.35 to $4.50 per hour940

A number of jobs in the prison facilities are
unpaid, including porter and maintenance
jobs.941 The pay scale for the 1,682 jobs paid
by the Nevada Department of Corrections
is not publicly available.942 Industry jobs in
hanger operations pay $10 per day, and jobs
in the cardroom pay per completed case or
pallet built.943 Jobs with the Nevada Division of
Forestry conservation camps pay $2.10 per day
for natural resource projects and $24 per day for
fighting wildland fires.944 Incarcerated workers
employed by the State Public Works Division,
Buildings and Grounds Section are paid an
average rate of $1.32 per hour, while workers
employed on Department of Transportation work
crews are paid $2.23 per day.945

New Hampshire

$0.85 to $3.00
per day946

$1 to $5 per day947

New Jersey

$1.30 to $1.60 per
day948

$1.30 to $10.00 per day949

Wages for non-industry jobs are for general job
assignments and are sourced from a 1990 New
Jersey Department of Corrections policy that
was still in effect in 2017 and may be outdated;
no revised pay scale has been made public
since then.

New Mexico

$0.10 to $1.00 per
hour950

$0.30 to $1.10 per hour951

Maintenance jobs pay $0.10 to $0.60 per hour.

New York

$0.10 to $0.33 per
hour952

$0.16 to $0.65 per hour953

Food service workers are paid $0.16 to $0.25
per hour.954 A small number of jobs classified
as Grade 5 are paid a flat rate of $2.00 per
day.955

North Carolina

$0.40 to $1.00 per
day956

No more than $3.00 per
day957

An incentive wage of up to $3.00 per day
is paid for jobs that require special skill or
training; this includes workers assigned to
correctional enterprises and the construction
program.

State

Notes

Unpaid jobs include unit maintenance workers,
dining hall workers, tutors for literacy, chaplain
workers, gym workers, administrative workers,
central kitchen, and infirmary workers, among
others. Instead, eligible incarcerated workers
may earn Meritorious Earned Time or Trusty
Earned Time for a reduction of sentence for
satisfactory participation in selected work
programs.932

Captive Labor

99

Pay scale:
Non-industry
jobs

Pay scale:
Jobs in state-owned
correctional industries

North Dakota

$1.55 to $7.07 per
day958

$0.45 to $1.79 per hour959

Ohio

$6 to $24 per
month960

$0.23 to $1.35 per hour961

Assignments pay at least $6 per month for
less than 60 hours per month, at least $9 per
month for 60 to 89 hours per month, at least
$12 per month for 90-139 hours per month, and
$12 to $22 per month for at least 140 hours
per month. Up to 3 percent of the institution’s
population may be paid $24 per month for fulltime assignments requiring a great degree of
skill or responsibility.

Oklahoma

$7.23 to $14.45
per month962

$0.20 to $0.60 per hour963

Some jobs that require a higher skill level,
such as mechanics or law clerks, may be paid
$27.09 per month.964

Oregon

See note

$8 to $82 per month965

Oregon does not pay wages to incarcerated
workers. Compensation is paid via the
Performance Recognition and Award system,
through which workers may receive points
that may be converted to a monthly monetary
award.966

Pennsylvania

$0.19 to $0.51 per
hour967

$0.19 to $0.51 per hour968

Rhode Island

$0.50 to $3.00
per day969

$1.50 to $3.00 per day970

South Carolina

$0 for nearly all
jobs971

$0 to $2.00 per hour972

All institutional jobs, some traditional
correctional industries jobs, and on community
labor crews are not paid any wage. As of June
2018, the most recent available data, more
than 90 percent of South Carolina’s 14,786
incarcerated workers had these unpaid
job assignments.973 Workers in the prison
industries service program are paid $0.35 to
$2.00 per hour.

South Dakota

$0.25 per hour974

$0.25 to $0.50 per hour975

All institutional assignments pay $0.25 per
hour; all prison industries workers also start
at $0.25 per hour. Only people assigned
to construction work for the South Dakota
Housing Development Authority are paid $0.40
to $0.50 per hour, and firefighters assigned to
wildland fire duties are paid $12 per day. Staff
may assign incarcerated people duties without
pay.

Tennessee

$0.17 to $0.59 per
hour976

Not publicly available977

Jobs classified as unskilled are paid $0.17 to
$0.34 per hour; semi-skilled are paid $0.25
to $0.42 per hour; and highly skilled are paid
$0.42 to $0.59 per hour.

Texas

$0978

$0979

Only PIECP workers employed by contracting
private companies are paid wages.980 An
exception to this policy was granted to
incarcerated workers tasked with working
in mobile morgues during COVID-19, who
were paid $2 per hour after refusing to work
unpaid.981

Utah

Not publicly
available

$0.60 to $1.75 per hour982

State

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ACLU Research Report

Notes

State

Pay scale:
Non-industry
jobs

Pay scale:
Jobs in state-owned
correctional industries

Vermont

$0.25 per hour983

$0.25 to $1.35 per hour984

Virginia

$0.27 to $0.45 per
hour985

$0.55 to $0.80 per hour986

Washington

No more than $55
per month987

$0.70 to $2.70 to hour988

West Virginia

$13 to $71 per
month989

$0.25 to $1.25 per hour990

Wisconsin

$0.12 to $0.42 per
hour991

$0.97 per hour on
average992

Wyoming

$0.35 to $1.00 per
hour994

$0.50 to $1.20 per hour995

Calculated Average and Hourly
Wages Paid to Incarcerated
Workers
The following Table C details the average and hourly
wages paid to incarcerated workers, with calculated
hourly wages for the state departments of correction
that report compensation policies by the day, week,
or the month. For states that report wages on a daily,

Notes
Most job assignments pay no more than $0.25
per hour. Community Service Crews working
on contracts processed by the Correctional
Industries Division can be paid up to $0.40 per
hour. Food service assignments with regular
seven-days-per-week schedules may be paid
the same as correctional industries jobs
with the same schedule. Most correctional
industries jobs are paid $0.25 to $0.85 per
hour; mentor/team leaders may be paid up to
$1.25 per hour.

Compensation for workers assigned to blood/
body fluid or potentially infectious material
cleanup will not exceed $2.40 for each
cleanup.

Industry workers employed as agricultural
and logistics workers with the Bureau of
Correctional Enterprises earn $1.22 per hour.993

weekly, or monthly basis, the authors calculated
hourly rates based on work hours per day and work
days per month, based on the state’s published
policies on work hours. For the states where the
authors could not find published information on
work hours, we assumed 22 work days per month,
an average work day of 6.35 hours per day for nonindustry jobs, and an average work day of 6.79 hours
per day for industry jobs. The table below uses the
same sources as the detailed wage table in Table B.

TABLE C

Calculated average and hourly wages paid to incarcerated workers
State

Pay scale:
non-industry jobs

Pay scale:
Jobs in state-owned correctional
industries

Federal Prisons

$0.12 to $0.40 per hour

$0.23 to $1.15 per hour

Alabama

$0

$0.25 to $0.75 per hour

Alaska

$0.30 to $0.90 per hour

N/A

Arizona

$0.15 to $0.45 per hour

$0.23 to $1.00 per hour

Arkansas

$0

$0

California

$0.08 to $0.37 per hour

$0.35 to $1.00 per hour

Captive Labor

101

State

Pay scale:
non-industry jobs

Pay scale:
Jobs in state-owned correctional
industries

Colorado

$0.33 to $1.61 per hour

$0.86 to $2.49 per hour

Connecticut

$0.12 to $0.90 per hour

$0.30 to $1.50 per hour

Delaware

N/A

$0.25 to $2.00 per hour

Florida

$0 to $0.32 per hour

$0.20 to $0.95 per hour

Georgia

$0996

$0997

Hawaii

$0.25 to $1.00 per hour

$0.50 to $2.50 per hour

Idaho

$0.20 to $0.90 per hour

N/A

Illinois

$0.13 to $0.39 per hour

$0.30 to $2.40 per hour

Indiana

$0.12 to $0.25 per hour

$0.30 to $0.55 per hour

Iowa

$0.28 to $0.71 per hour

$0.70 to $0.95 per hour

Kansas

$0.06 to $0.13 per hour998

$0.25 to $3.00 per hour

Kentucky

$0.10 to $0.30 per hour999

N/A

Louisiana

$0.02 to $0.04 per hour

$0.02 to $0.40 per hour

Maine

$0 to $1.57 per hour

$0.50 to $2.80 per hour

Maryland

$0.14 to $0.43 per hour

$0.17 to $1.16 per hour

Massachusetts

$0.16 to $0.79 per hour

$0.40 to $1.55 per hour

Michigan

$0.12 to $0.38 per hour1000

N/A

Minnesota

$0.25 to $1.00 per hour

$0.50 to $2.00 per hour

Mississippi

$0 for most jobs

$0.20 to $1.30 per hour

Missouri

$0.05 to $0.06 per hour

$0.30 to $0.71 per hour

Montana

$0.16 to $1.12 per hour1001

$0.21 to $1.25 per hour

Nebraska

$0.16 to $1.50 per hour1002

$0.38 to $1.08 per hour

Nevada

$0.00 to N/A

$0.35 to $4.50 per hour

New Hampshire

$0.21 to $1.00 per hour1003

$0.25 to $1.60 per hour1004

New Jersey

$0.20 to $0.25 per hour

$0.38 to $2.00 per hour

New Mexico

$0.10 to $1.00 per hour

$0.30 to $1.10 per hour

New York

$0.10 to $0.33 per hour

$0.16 to $0.65 per hour

North Carolina

$0.05 to $0.13 per hour

$0.05 to $0.38 per hour

North Dakota

$0.19 to $0.88 per hour1005

$0.45 to $1.79 per hour

Ohio

$0.10 to $0.17 per hour1006

$0.23 to $1.35 per hour

Oklahoma

$0.05 to $0.10 per hour

$0.20 to $0.60 per hour

Oregon

N/A

$0.05 to $0.47 per hour

Pennsylvania

$0.19 to $0.51 per hour

$0.19 to $0.51 per hour

Rhode Island

$0.08 to $0.47 per hour

$0.22 to $0.44 per hour

South Carolina

$0 for nearly all jobs

$0 to $2.00 per hour

South Dakota

$0.25 per hour

$0.25 to $0.50 per hour

Tennessee

$0.17 to $0.59 per hour

N/A

Texas

$0

$0

Utah

N/A

$0.60 to $1.75 per hour

Vermont

$0.25 per hour

$0.25 to $1.35 per hour

Virginia

$0.27 to $0.45 per hour

$0.55 to $0.80 per hour

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ACLU Research Report

State

Pay scale:
non-industry jobs

Pay scale:
Jobs in state-owned correctional
industries

Washington

N/A to $0.39 per hour

$0.70 to $2.70 to hour

West Virginia

$0.09 to $0.51 per hour

$0.25 to $1.25 per hour

Wisconsin

$0.12 to $0.42 per hour

$0.97 per hour on average

Wyoming

$0.35 to $1.00 per hour

$0.50 to $1.20 per hour

Average

$0.13 to $0.52 per hour

$0.30 to $1.30 per hour

Captive Labor

103

Endnotes
1

U.S. Const. amend. XIII (“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude,
except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been
duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place
subject to their jurisdiction”).

2

U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Survey of Prison
Inmates, United States, 2016. Inter-university Consortium for
Political and Social Research [distributor], (Sept. 2021), https://
doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR37692.v4. This figure is based on the
American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) analysis of the published
raw survey data.

3

See, e.g., Wallace v. Robinson, 940 F.2d 243, 246-7 (7th Cir. 1991);
Williams v. Meese, 926 F.2d 994, 998 (10th Cir. 1991).

4

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
(CDCR), Conservation (Fire) Camps, https://www.cdcr.ca.gov/
conservation-camps/.

5

The following states replied to the Freedom of Information
Act (FOIA) requests, with varying degrees of responsiveness:
Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland,
Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire,
North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South
Carolina, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and
Wyoming. The remaining states did not respond to the FOIA
requests.

6

7

8

U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Survey of Prison
Inmates, United States, 2016. Inter-university Consortium for
Political and Social Research [distributor], (Sept. 2021), https://
doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR37692.v4.
According to the Prison Policy Initiative in 2022, there are almost
2 million people held behind bars, including roughly 1,042,000 in
state prisons, 547,000 in local jails, and 208,000 in federal prisons
and jails. See, Prison Policy Initiative, Mass Incarceration: The
Whole Pie 2022, by Wendy Sawyer and Peter Wagner (Mar. 14,
2022), https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2022.html.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics prison census, 98.7
percent of state and federal public adult correctional facilities offer
work programs for people incarcerated in those facilities, while 89.7
percent of private facilities offered such programs as of midyear
2019. The work programs measured include facility support
services to maintain the prisons where workers are confined; prison
industries; public work assignments; and farming or agriculture.
U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Census of State
and Federal Adult Correctional Facilities, 2019 – Statistical Tables
(Nov. 2021) at 13, https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/pdf/csfacf19st.
pdf.

9

U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Prisoners in 2020—
Statistical Tables (Dec. 2021) at 7, https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/
pdf/p20st.pdf. See also Prison Policy Initiative, Mass Incarceration:
The Whole Pie 2022, by Wendy Sawyer and Peter Wagner (Mar. 14,
2022), https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2022.html.

10

U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Survey of Prison
Inmates, United States, 2016. Inter-university Consortium for
Political and Social Research [distributor], (Sept. 2021), https://

104

ACLU Research Report

doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR37692.v4. This estimate is based on ACLU
analysis of the published raw survey data.
11

Id. This estimate is based on ACLU analysis of the published raw
survey data, which revealed that 65.1 percent of survey respondents
reported having a work assignment. We applied this percentage
to the most recently published data on the state and federal prison
population, which totaled 1,215,821 at yearend 2020, according to
data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics published in December
2021, arriving at an estimated 791,499 incarcerated workers. U.S.
Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Prisoners in 2020—
Statistical Tables (Dec. 2021) at 7, https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/
pdf/p20st.pdf.

12

The Sentencing Project, The Color of Justice: Racial and
Ethnic Disparity in State Prisons (Oct. 13, 2021), https://www.
sentencingproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/The-Color-ofJustice-Racial-and-Ethnic-Disparity-in-State-Prisons.pdf.

13

U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Survey of Prison
Inmates, United States, 2016. Inter-university Consortium for
Political and Social Research [distributor], (Sept. 2021), https://
doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR37692.v4. This figure is based on ACLU
analysis of the raw survey data.

14

Id. These percentages are based on ACLU analysis of the raw survey
data. Because some of these Bureau of Justice Statistics survey
categories likely encompass a proportionately small percentage
of workers engaged in work outside the prison on public works
assignments, such as in forestry, groundskeeping, maintenance, or
road maintenance, we estimate that the percentage of incarcerated
people working to maintain the prisons is somewhat lower than
their sum of 86.1 percent.

15

Data is for fiscal year 2008. National Correctional Industries
Association (NCIA), 2009 NCIA Directory (Baltimore, MD: NCIA,
2009).

16

Telephone interview with Wil Heslop, interim executive director,
National Correctional Industries Association (NCIA), Nov. 18, 2021,
citing 2021 NCIA Directory.

17

Many states require their state agencies and entities to purchase
goods and services from their correctional industry. See, e.g., Wis.
Stat. § 303.01 Va. Code Ann. § 53.1-59; see also Ill. Comp. Stat.
5/3-12-7 (2010). See also Illinois Correctional Industries, FAQ:
Frequently Asked Questions (2015) http://www.icicatalog.illinois.
gov/documents/faq.pdf).

18

Otak, Coffee Creek Correctional Facility (2020), https://www.otak.
com/about/projects/coffee-creek-correctional-facility/; Todd Clear,
Michael Riesig, and George Cole, American Corrections (Boston:
Cengage Learning, 2019).

19

These states are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California,
Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Illinois,
Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan,
Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada,
New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon,
Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas,
Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and
Wyoming.

20

U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Census of State
and Federal Adult Correctional Facilities, 2019 – Statistical

Tables (Nov. 2021) at 3, 13, https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/pdf/
csfacf19st.pdf. In 2005, the last year for which such data was made
public, over half of these prisons were located in the South. Of 798
correctional facilities with public works programs in 2005, 447 were
located in the South, 98 in the Northeast, 133 in the Midwest, and
120 in the West. U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics,
Census of State and Federal Correctional Facilities, 2005 (Oct.
2008) at Appendix Table 16, https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/pdf/
csfcf05.pdf.

31

Georgia Department of Corrections, Fire Services and Life Safety,
http://www.dcor.state.ga.us/Divisions/Facilities/FireServices;
Georgia Department of Corrections, Fiscal Year 2020 Report at 60,
http://www.dcor.state.ga.us/sites/default/files/sites/all/gdc/
files/pdf/Research/Monthly/GDC%20FY2020%20Annual%20
Report.pdf; Georgia Department of Corrections, 2017 Fiscal Year
Report at 24, http://www.dcor.state.ga.us/sites/default/files/
sites/all/gdc/files/pdf/Research/Monthly/GDC%20FY2017%20
Annual%20Report.pdf; Erin Paige McGonigle, First Responders,
Second Priority: Georgia’s Inmate Firefighter Program and
International Human Rights Standards, 48 Georgia J. Intl. & Comp.
L. 189 (Apr. 11, 2021), https://digitalcommons.law.uga.edu/cgi/
viewcontent.cgi?article=2471&context=gjicl.

32

U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice
Assistance (BJS), Prison Industry Enhancement Certification
Program Brief (2018). https://www.bja.gov/Publications/PIECPProgram-Brief_2018.pdf.

21

U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics,
Survey of Inmates in State Correctional Facilities,
2004 (Feb. 2007), https://bjs.ojp.gov/data-collection/
survey-inmates-state-correctional-facilities-siscf.

22

Ben Conark, Work Forced: A Century Later, Unpaid Prison Labor
Continues to Power Florida, Florida Times-Union (May 26, 2019),
https://stories.usatodaynetwork.com/workforced/.

23

North Carolina Department of Public Safety, Fiscal Year 2019-2020
Annual Statistical Report (2020) at 16-17, https://files.nc.gov/
ncdps/FY-2019-20-Annual-Statistical-Report.pdf.

33

Alfred C. Aman Jr. and Carol J. Greenhouse, Prison Privatization
and Inmate Labor in the Global Economy: Reframing the Debate
Over Private Prisons, 42 Fordham Urb. L. J. 355, 388 (2014).

24

Arizona Department of Corrections Rehabilitation and Reentry,
Corrections at a Glance, February 2022 (Mar. 8, 2022), https://
corrections.az.gov/sites/default/files/REPORTS/CAG/2022/
cagfeb-22.pdf.

34

25

Total hours logged by incarcerated workers on community labor
through their work on fire crews, public sector work crews, and
Arizona Department of Transportation work crews was 1,829,348
in FY 2020. Arizona Department of Corrections, Corrections at a
Glance, June 2020 https://corrections.az.gov/sites/default/files/
REPORTS/CAG/2020/cagjune-20.pdf.

As of the third quarter of 2021 ending on September 30, 2021, 4,860
incarcerated workers were employed through the Prison Industry
Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP). See, National
Correctional Industries Association, Prison Industry Enhancement
Certification Program (PIECP) Certification & Cost Accounting
Center Listing: Statistics for the Quarter Ending September 30, 2021
(Baltimore, MD: NCIA, March 2022), https://www.nationalcia.
org/_files/ugd/569cf7_0ab8d011f21b4127b18d15c77d104f45.pdf.

35

U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Census of State
and Federal Adult Correctional Facilities, 2019 – Statistical Tables
(Nov. 2021) at 13, https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/pdf/csfacf19st.
pdf.

36

U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Survey of Prison
Inmates, United States, 2016. Inter-university Consortium for
Political and Social Research [distributor], (Sept. 2021), https://
doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR37692.v4. Percentage is based on ACLU
analysis of the raw survey data. Arkansas Division of Correction,
Annual Report, Fiscal Year 2021 (Apr. 2022) at 48, https://doc.
arkansas.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/ADC-FY2021-AnnualReport-BOC-Approved-4.29.2022.pdf.

37

Courtney A. Crittenden, Barbara A. Koons-Witt and Robert J.
Kaminski, Being Assigned Work in Prison: Do Gender and Race
Matter?, Feminist Criminology 1-23 (Sept. 2016), https://www.
researchgate.net/publication/308104933_Being_Assigned_Work_
in_Prison_Do_Gender_and_Race_Matter.

26

Washington State Department of Corrections (WDOC),
Participation by Program Summary (2020), https://www.doc.
wa.gov/docs/publications/reports/700-SR002-second-quarter.
pdf; WDOC, Class IV Off-Site Work Crew, Policy Document
700.400 (2019), https://www.doc.wa.gov/information/policies/
files/700400.pdf.

27

Mississippi Department of Corrections, Inmate Work Crews,
https://www.mdoc.ms.gov/Institutions/Pages/Inmate-WorkCrews.aspx.

28

Arkansas Division of Correction, Annual Report Fiscal Year
2020 (2021) at 21, https://doc.arkansas.gov/wp-content/
uploads/2021/03/Division-of-Correction-FY20-Annual-ReportBoard-of-Corrections-Approved-March-19-2021.pdf.

29

J. Carlee Purdum and Michelle Meyer, Prisoner Labor Throughout
the Life Cycle of Disasters, Risk, Hazards & Crisis in Public Policy
(May 12, 2020).

30

Jessica Lipscomb, Unpaid Florida Prisoners Being Used
to Clean Up After Hurricane Irma, Miami New Times
(Sept. 28, 2017) https://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/
unpaid-florida-prison-inmates-being-used-on-hurricane-irma-cleanup-labor-crews-9701867; Polly Mosendz, When Do
You Move Prisoners Out of a Storm’s Path?, Bloomberg (Sept. 8,
2017), https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-08/
when-do-you-move-prisoners-out-of-a-hurricane-s-path.

38

Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Frequently Asked
Questions, https://www.tdcj.texas.gov/faq/cid.html (stating
“Inmates are not paid for their work”); Chris Tomlinson, Prison
Slave Labor Isn’t Just a Problem in China. It Happens in Texas,
Too, Houston Chronicle (Aug. 27, 2021) https://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/columnists/tomlinson/article/
Tomlinson-Prison-slave-labor-persists-in-Texas-16414140.php;
Editorial: Unpaid Prison Labor is Wrong. End it Now, Houston
Chronicle (Dec. 3, 2020), https://www.houstonchronicle.com/
opinion/editorials/article/Editorial-Unpaid-prison-labor-is-wrongEnd-it-15771108.php; Vicky Camarillo, ‘The Penal System Today
is Slavery: Lawmakers Finally Start to Talk About Unpaid Labor
in Texas Prisons, Texas Observer (May 10, 2019), https://www.

Captive Labor

105

texasobserver.org/penal-system-slavery-unpaid-labor-texas/.
An exception to this policy was granted to incarcerated workers
tasked with working in mobile morgues during COVID-19, who
were paid $2 an hour after refusing to work unpaid. Alana
Rocha, Incarcerated Texans Enlisted to Work in County Morgue
as COVID-19 Deaths Overwhelm El Paso, Texas Tribune
(Nov. 15, 2020), https://www.texastribune.org/2020/11/15/
coronavirus-texas-el-paso-inmates-morgue-deaths/.
39

40

Texas Legislative Budget Board, Fiscal Note, 86th Legislative
Regular Session, In Re: HB3720 (Apr. 17, 2019) https://
capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/86R/fiscalnotes/pdf/HB03720I.pdf#navpanes=0; Vicky Camarillo, ‘The Penal System Today is Slavery:
Lawmakers Finally Start to Talk About Unpaid Labor in Texas
Prisons, Texas Observer (May 10, 2019), https://www.texasobserver.org/penal-system-slavery-unpaid-labor-texas/.
In South Carolina, incarcerated people working in all institutional
jobs, some correctional industries jobs, and on community labor
crews are not paid any wage. As of June 2018, the most recent
available data, these unpaid job assignments constituted more than
90 percent of the state’s 14,786 incarcerated workers. See South
Carolina Department of Corrections, Inmate Pay, § 3 (2014), http://
www.doc.sc.gov/policy/ADM-15-13.htm.pdf; South Carolina
Department of Corrections Letter to South Carolina Legislative
Oversight Committee, Inmate Work: Earning and Supervision
Details, Policies, and Statutes (May 24, 2019), https://www.scstatehouse.gov/CommitteeInfo/HouseLegislativeOversightCommittee/
AgencyWebpages/Corrections/Statistics%20by%20type%20of%20
inmate%20work%20-%20qualifications,%20number%20working,%20costs,%20etc..pdf.

41

See Appendix B for the wages paid to incarcerated workers in each
state and in federal prisons, and see Appendix C for calculated
average and hourly wages paid to incarcerated workers.

42

Maine Department of Corrections, FOIA response document (on
file with authors).

43

Connecticut Department of Correction, Administrative Directive:
Inmate Assignment and Pay Plan, Directive 10.1 (effective Oct. 22,
2015), https://portal.ct.gov/-/media/DOC/Pdf/Ad/ad1001pdf.pdf.

44

Kansas Department of Corrections, Internal Management Policy
& Procedure: Resident Work Assignments, Policy 10-109A (effective
Jan. 21, 2022), https://www.doc.ks.gov/kdoc-policies/AdultIMPP/
chapter-10/10-109a-resident-work-assignments.pdf/view; Kansas
Department of Corrections, Internal Management Policy &
Procedure: Programs and Services: Offender Work Assignments,
Policy 10-109J at 2 (effective Oct. 13, 2016), https://www.doc.
ks.gov/kdoc-policies/AdultIMPP/chapter-10/10-109j/view.

45

Jon Swartz, Inmates vs. Outsourcing, USA Today (July 6, 2004),
https://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/economy/employment/2004-07-06-call-center_x.htm; Otak, Coffee Creek
Correctional Facility (2020), https://www.otak.com/about/projects/coffee-creek-correctional-facility/; Todd Clear, Michael Riesig,
and George Cole, American Corrections (Boston: Cengage Learning,
2019)

46

La. Rev. Stat. § 15:873.

47

Arkansas Department of Corrections, Division of
Corrections, Inmate Handbook¸ at 6 (March 2020)
https://doc.arkansas.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/

106

ACLU Research Report

Inmate_Handbook_Updated_March_2020_Final_02_28_2020_
pdf.pdf
48

Kate Lisa, Campaign Launched to Raise Pay, Secure Labor
Rights for Prisoners, Hudson Valley 360 (Jan. 17, 2022),
https://www.hudsonvalley360.com/news/nystate/campaign-launched-to-raise-pay-secure-labor-rights-for-prisoners/
article_46dc9d5a-cbfe-5240-abfd-ddf3d0457da8.html; Joseph
Spector, Big Raise? Prison Inmates Could Get a Major Boost
in their Wages in New York, Democrat & Chron. (Feb. 7, 2019),
https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/politics/
albany/2019/02/07/big-raise-prison-inmates-could-get-majorboost-minimum-wages-new-york/2799895002/.

49

South Dakota Department of Corrections, Inmate Work
Assignments and Pay, Policy 1.5.A.1 (effective Jan. 4, 2019), at
4 (Revision Log), https://doc.sd.gov/documents/Inmate%20
Work%20Assignments%20and%20Pay142019.pdf.

50

Vermont Agency of Human Services, Department of Corrections,
Inmate Wage Plan, Policy 394 (effective May 30, 1988), https://doc.
vermont.gov/sites/correct/files/documents/policy/correctional/394-Inmate-Wage-Plan.pdf.

51

Illinois Department of Corrections, Administrative Directive
05.03.103, Monetary Compensation for Assignments for Individuals
in Custody (July 1, 2021); Illinois Department of Corrections,
Administrative Directive 05.03.103A, Monetary Compensation for
Inmate Assignments (May 1, 1992, amended July 1, 2010).

52

Nationally, incarcerated workers employed in the PIECP program
earned $10,034,501 in gross wages in the first quarter of 2021 and
$11,689,205 in the second quarter of 2021, of which $5,947,107
and $6,884,581 was deducted respectively. National Correctional
Industry Association (NCIA), Prison Industry Enhancement
Certification Program Certification Program Certification &
Cost Accounting Center Listing: Quarterly Report, Statistics
for the Quarter Ending June 30, 2021, (Baltimore, MD: NCIA,
Dec. 2, 2021), https://www.nationalcia.org/statistical-reports,
https://4c99dc08-46a7-4bd9-b990-48103d668bb3.filesusr.com/
ugd/569cf7_7722ec64545745f780ef9e63e75e7482.pdf; NCIA,
Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program Certification
Program Certification & Cost Accounting Center Listing: Quarterly
Report, Statistics for the Quarter Ending March 31, 2021, (Baltimore,
MD: NCIA, 2021), https://www.nationalcia.org/statistical-reports,
https://df1d6e07-2d3a-49dd-bb43-170ddf635f64.usrfiles.com/
ugd/df1d6e_e0d06d60f81e41cab23b5ec50294401b.pdf.

53

Id.; NCIA, Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program
Certification Program Certification & Cost Accounting
Center Listing: Quarterly Report, Statistics for the Quarter
Ending December 31, 2020, (Baltimore, MD: NCIA, 2021),
https://www.nationalcia.org/statistical-reports, https://
df1d6e07-2d3a-49dd-bb43-170ddf635f64.usrfiles.com/ugd/
df1d6e_581cb12b96244d80bf38ed972e18fef6.pdf; NCIA, Prison
Industry Enhancement Certification Program Certification Program
Certification & Cost Accounting Center Listing: Quarterly Report,
Statistics for the Quarter Ending September 30, 2020 (Baltimore,
MD: NCIA, 2020), https://www.nationalcia.org/statistical-reports,
https://df1d6e07-2d3a-49dd-bb43-170ddf635f64.usrfiles.com/
ugd/df1d6e_e2b3759067374286b6578b24ea6ae87a.pdf.

54

Filiberto Nolasco Gomez, An Update on Prison Labor in Minnesota,
Workday Minnesota (Jan. 5, 2022), https://workdayminnesota.
org/an-update-on-prison-labor-in-minnesota/.

55

Fla. Stat. § 946.522-3 (“The trust fund shall consist of moneys
authorized to be deducted pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 1761(c) and the
applicable federal guidelines, to be appropriated by the Legislature,
and moneys deposited by the corporation authorized under this
part to manage and operate correctional work programs. The
appropriated funds shall be used by the corporation for purposes of
construction or renovation of its facilities or for the expansion or establishment of correctional work programs as described in this part
or for prison industries enhancement (PIE) programs as authorized
under s. 946.523.”).

56

Data is calculated from the three-state survey conducted by the
ACLU and the Global Human Rights Clinic.

57

Prison Policy Initiative, Following the Money of Mass Incarceration,
by Peter Wagner and Bernadette Rabuy (Jan. 25, 2017), https://
www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/money.html; Nicole Lewis
and Beatrix Lockwood, The Hidden Cost of Incarceration, The
Marshall Project (Dec. 17, 2019) https://www.themarshallproject.
org/2019/12/17/the-hidden-cost-of-incarceration.

58

Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Who Pays: The True Costs
of Incarceration on Families (Sept. 2015), http://whopaysreport.
org/who-pays-full-report/. See also Connecting Families New
York, Connecting Families Fact Sheet, https://nyconnect.org/
wp-content/uploads/2021/12/21-12_CJ_ConnectingFamilies_
Factsheet_v5.pdf.

59

In the case of the Fair Labor Standards Act, there has been no specific guidance from Congress or the Supreme Court as to whether
the language is meant to exclude incarcerated workers from its
protections. However, most appellate courts have ruled that prison
workers are excluded from the definition of “employee” in that Act,
thereby excluding them from protection. Matthew J. Lang, The
Search for a Workable Standard for When Fair Labor Standards
Act Coverage Should be Extended to Prisoner Workers, 5 U. Pa.
J. Bus. L. 19 (2002). See also Jackson Taylor Kirklin, Title VII
Protections for Inmates: A Model Approach for Safeguarding Civil
Rights in America’s Prisons, 111 Colum. L. Rev. 1048,1048–1089
(2011); Andre Montoya-Barthelemy, Letter to the Editor, The
Occupational Health of Prison Inmates: An Ignored Population and
an Opportunity, 61 J. of Occupational and Environmental. Med.
e74-76 (2019). In the case of the National Labor Relations Act
(NLRA), which protects the right of workers to engage in collective
bargaining, there has also been little Congressional or Supreme
Court guidance as to whether its protections include incarcerated
workers. Given that the protections only apply to those who meet
the specific legal definition of an “employee,” some lower courts
have recognized incarcerated workers employed in private companies through work release as eligible for the NLRA’s protections.
However, the vast majority of incarcerated workers who labor
within prisons and jails are currently not covered given that federal
and state governments, when acting as employers, are excluded
from the NLRA. Kara Goad, Columbia University and Incarcerated
Worker Labor Unions under the National Labor Relations Act, 103
Cornell L. Rev. 177 (2017).

60

Work performed while incarcerated does not earn toward benefits
for two reasons. First, it is excluded from the Federal Insurance
Contributions Act (FICA) statute defining covered employment.
See Federal Insurance Contributions Act, I.R.C. § 3121(b)(6)(A), §
3121(b)(7)(F)(ii), § 3121(u)(3), (u)(2)(B)(ii)(II). Second, even when
this work may constitute covered employment (as in the case of
some PIECP jobs, the only category of work not excluded from the
statute), most incarcerated workers “do not earn sufficient income

per quarter to surpass the statutory thresholds.” Stephanie Hunter
McMahon, Inmates May Work, But Don’t Tell Social Security, 72
South Carolina L. Rev. 757, 773 (2021); Social Security Act of 1935,
42 U.S.C. §§ 410(a)(6)(A), 418(c)(6)(B).
61

Incarcerated workers do not qualify for the Earned Income Tax
Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) because Congress explicitly excluded any wages earned while the person is incarcerated
from the earnings that earn towards the EITC and the CTC. §32(c)
(2)(B)(iv); §24(d)(1)(B)(i). See also Stephanie Hunter McMahon,
Prison Work is Taxing and Should Be Taxed, manuscript in preparation, 2022 (on file with authors).

62

The vast majority of incarcerated workers labor within correctional
institutions operated by state and local governments, which are not
considered “employers” under OSHA. See 29 U.S.C. § 652(5)-(6)
(“(5) The term “employer” means a person engaged in a business
affecting commerce who has employees, but does not include the
United States (not including the United States Postal Service)
or any State or political subdivision of a State. (6) The term “employee” means an employee of an employer who is employed in a
business of his employer which affects commerce.”). See also U.S.
Department of Labor, OSHA, Standard Interpretations, in letter
to William Linn, Clarification on whether an employer with multiple
facilities needs a separate written ECP for each facility, Standard
number 1910.1030; 1960 (2011), https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/
standardinterpretations/2011-12-13 (“Federal OSHA does not
cover state or local government-operated prisons.”). See also U.S.
Department of Labor, OSHA, Standard Interpretations, in letter to
Deleon James Mintz, OSHA Does Not Have Jurisdiction Over State
Employees or Inmates, Standard number 1975.5 (1992), https://
www.osha.gov/laws-regs/standardinterpretations/1992-12-16-1
(“The definition of an ‘employer’ under Section 3(5) of the
Occupational Safety and Health Act specifically excludes a State or
any political subdivision of a State from coverage under the OSHA
Act. Therefore, OSHA does not have jurisdiction over the State of
Colorado or its employees, including inmates in correctional institutions, either paid or nonpaid.”). However, according to an OSHA
instruction from 1995, “when inmates are required to perform
work similar to that outside of prisons, e.g., farming, industries,
machine operations, etc., the applicable protections open to anyone
else in similar situations should apply, including the right to file a
report of hazards with appropriate safety and health officials.” See
U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA Directives, Federal Agency Safety
and Health Programs with the Bureau of Prisons, U.S. Department
of Justice, Directive number FAP 01-00-002 (1995), https://www.
osha.gov/enforcement/directives/fap-01-00-002.

63

For example, Arizona Revised Statutes provide that in the employ
of the state, the term “employment” does not apply to services
performed by “inmate[s] of a custodial or penal institution.” See
Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 23-615 (B)(6). The Michigan Supreme Court
and Court of Appeals have held that there is no employer/employee
relationship between incarcerated individuals and the state since
the relationship is custodial and rehabilitative. See, Thompson v.
Bronk, 126 Mich 455, 456-457; 85 NW 1084 (1901); Cadeau v. Boys’
Vocational School, 359 Mich 598, 608-609; 103 NW2d 443 (1960);
Green v. Department of Corrections, 30 Mich App 648; 186 NW2d
792; aff’d 386 Mich 459; 192 NW2d 491 (1971); Prisoners’ Labor
Union at Marquette v. Department of Corrections, 61 Mich App
328; 336; 232 NW2d 699; lv den 394 Mich 843 (1975). New York
State’s Department of Labor Public Employee Safety and Health
Field Operations Manual excludes incarcerated people from the
definition of public employees, even though the Consolidated Laws
of New York do not explicitly exclude them from the definition of

Captive Labor

107

employee. New York State Department of Labor, Public Employee
Safety and Health Field Operations Manual (2021), https://dol.
ny.gov/system/files/documents/2021/04/peshfom.pdf; N.Y. Lab.
Law § 27-a (McKinney). Virginia Occupational Safety and Health
(VOSH) interprets the exclusion of incarcerated individuals as
employees under the Virginia Minimum Wage Act, § 40.1-28.9 to
extend to VOSH. However, it considers VOSH to be responsible
for prisoners employed by a public employer in a work-release
program. Virginia Department of Labor and Industry, Virginia
Occupational and Health Program, VOSH Administrative and
Regulations Manual (Sep. 21, 2006), https://www.vaasphalt.org/
wp-content/uploads/2012/10/DOLI_Admin_Regs_Manual_
hitching_ride_on_paver_issue.pdf. In California, unlike other
states, California Division of Occupational Safety and Health
Administration (Cal/OSHA) may make recommendations to the
Department of Corrections to improve the safety of the working
conditions and work areas of state prisoners. Cal/OSHA may also
conduct hearings and adopts special orders, rules, or regulations if
the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation fails to comply
with recommendations. Cal. Code Regs. tit. 8, § 344.46.
64

Human Rights Watch, No Equal Justice: The Prison Litigation
Reform Act in the United States (June 16, 2009), https://
www.hrw.org/report/2009/06/16/no-equal-justice/
prison-litigation-reform-act-united-states.

People At Poultry Plants Deserve Better, Marshall Project (Aug.
13, 2018), https://www.themarshallproject.org/2018/08/13/
why-incarcerated-poultry-workers-deserve-better.
77

Id.

78

Buckley v. Barbour County, Ala., 624 F. Supp. 2d (M.D. Ala. 2008);
Buckley v. Barbour County, Ala., 2010 WL 1993066 (M.D. Ala. 2010).

79

Buckley v. Barbour County, Ala., 624 F. Supp. 2d (M.D. Ala. 2008).

80

Paul Egan, Inmate Who Led Prison Sewage Cleanup Says He
Now Has Hepatitis C, Detroit Free Press (June 3, 2017), https://
www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2017/06/04/
hepatitis-c-inmate-glen-lilly/362663001/.

81

Id.

82

Brown v. State, N.Y. Ct. Cl., Claim No. 125765, #2018-054-097 (Sept.
11, 2018).

83

Spencer Woodman, California Blames Incarcerated Workers for
Unsafe Conditions and Amputations, The Intercept (Dec. 28, 2016).

84

See, e.g., Kristi Graunke and Will Tucker, Why Incarcerated
People At Poultry Plants Deserve Better, Marshall Project (Aug. 13,
2018), https://www.themarshallproject.org/2018/08/13/why-incarcerated-poultry-workers-deserve-better; Elizabeth Whitman,
More Arizona Inmates Report Serious Injuries While Working at
Hickman’s Egg Farm, Phx. New Times (Oct. 4, 2019), https://www.
phoenixnewtimes.com/news/arizona-inmates-report-serious-injuries-hickmans-egg-farm-osha-11367976; Southern Policy Law
Center, The Kill Line, by Will Tucker (July 26, 2018), https://www.
splcenter.org/news/2018/07/26/kill-line.

85

See, e.g., Spencer Woodman, California Blames Incarcerated
Workers for Unsafe Conditions and Amputations, The Intercept (Dec.
28, 2016).

86

E.g., Rebecca Woolington, Forest Grove Fire Crews Rescue Prison
Inmate Injured in Tillamook State Forest, Oregonian (Oct. 12, 2011),
https://www.oregonlive.com/forest-grove/2011/10/forest_grove_
fire_crews_rescue.html; AP, Tree-Cutting Error May Have Caused
Firefighter Death During Ferguson Fire, Associated Press (May 7,
2019), https://ktla.com/news/local-news/tree-cutting-error-mayhave-caused-firefighter-death-during-ferguson-fire-report/; Buckley
v. Barbour County, Ala., 624 F. Supp. 2d (M.D. Ala. 2008); Buckley v.
Barbour County, Ala., 2010 WL 1993066 (M.D. Ala. 2010).

87

Joseph Serna and Brittany Mejia, Female Inmate Firefighter
Dies Following Injury in Malibu Blaze, L.A. Times (Feb. 26, 2016),
https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-female-inmatefirefighter-death-20160226-story.html; Abby Vesoulis, Inmates
Fighting California Wildfires Are More Likely to Get Hurt,
Records Show, Time (Nov. 16, 2018), https://time.com/5457637/
inmate-firefighters-injuries-death/.

65

Data is calculated from the three-state survey conducted by the
ACLU and the Global Human Rights Clinic.

66

Spencer Woodman, California Blames Incarcerated Workers for
Unsafe Conditions and Amputations, The Intercept (Dec. 28, 2016).

67

Written survey response by [Name withheld to preserve anonymity, at survey respondent’s request], incarcerated at Menard
Corrections Center, IL (on file with authors).

68

Written survey response by [Name withheld to preserve anonymity, at survey respondent’s request], incarcerated at Stateville
Correctional Center, IL (on file with authors).

69

Written survey response by [Name withheld to preserve anonymity, at survey respondent’s request], incarcerated at Lincoln
Correctional Center in IL (on file with authors).

70

Data is calculated from the three-state survey conducted by the
ACLU and the Global Human Rights Clinic.

71

Kulkay v. Roy, 847 F.3d 637, 643–645 (8th Cir. 2017).

72

Jackson v. Birkey, No. 1:14-cv-01108-MMM, 2019 WL 2305135 (C.D.
Ill. May 30, 2019).

73

Trial Tr. Vol. 1 at 100, Jackson v. Birkey, No. 1:14-cv-01108-MMM,
2019 WL 2305135 (C.D. Ill. May 30, 2019).

74

Rhodes v. Michigan, 10 F. 4th 665 (6th Cir. 2021).

75

Elizabeth Whitman, Barely Trained Inmate Loses Finger Working at
Hickman’s Egg Farm, Phx. New Times (Sep. 12, 2019), https://www.
phoenixnewtimes.com/news/inmates-maricopa-county-arizona-injured-labor-hickman-egg-farms-11354362.

88

Brian Edwards and Jacob Margolis, California’s Firefighters
Keep Getting Injured While Training, And Some Have Died, LAist
(Sept. 21, 2021), https://laist.com/news/climate-environment/
california-cal-firefighters-training-injuries-deaths.

76

Southern Policy Law Center, The Kill Line, by Will Tucker
(July 26, 2018), https://www.splcenter.org/news/2018/07/26/
kill-line; Kristi Graunke and Will Tucker, Why Incarcerated

89

Interview with Hakeen Sakur, New Orleans, LA, (Nov. 8, 2019) (on
file with authors); Interview with Wayne Thomas, New Orleans, LA,
(Nov. 8, 2019) (on file with authors).

108

ACLU Research Report

90

Michael Barajas, Death of Dog Trainer Highlights Strenuous Heat
and Working Conditions at Texas Prisons, Texas Observer (July 2,
2019), https://www.texasobserver.org/death-of-dog-trainer-highlights-strenuous-heat-and-working-conditions-inside-texas-prisons/.

91

Vidlak v. Cox, 786 F. App’x 62 (7th Cir. 2019).

92

Liz Owens, I-TEAM INVESTIGATION: Poisoned Or Prison?,
WRDW-TV (Apr. 18, 2019), https://www.wrdw.com/content/
news/US-Battery--508773711.html; Liz Owens, I-TEAM
INVESTIGATION: OSHA Investigating Local Battery Maker,
WRDW-TV (Apr. 18, 2019), https://www.wrdw.com/content/
news/OSHA-investigating-local-battery-maker-498431392.html.

(Mar. 31, 2020), https://theintercept.com/2020/03/31/
rikers-island-coronavirus-mass-graves/.
104

Katie Way, Cuomo’s Prison Workers Say They’re Not Actually
Making Hand Sanitizer, Vice (Mar. 25, 2020), https://www.vice.
com/en_us/article/5dma4k/cuomos-prison-workers-say-theyre-not-actually-making-hand-sanitizer; Christopher Robbins, New
York State’s New Hand Sanitizer Is Made By Prisoners Paid An
Average 65 Cents An Hour, Gothamist (Mar. 9, 2020), https://
gothamist.com/news/new-york-states-new-hand-sanitizer-madeprisoners-paid-average-65-cents-hour.

105

Leighann Starkey and Jacalyn Goldzweig Panitz, forthcoming
report to be published by Legal Aid Society on behalf of the 13th
Forward Coalition, based on records provided by the New York
State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision
(DOCCS) in response to a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL)
request filed by the Legal Aid Society, https://www.legalaidnyc.
org/PrisonLaborReport2022; Glenn Thrush, Benjamin Smalls,
Jailhouse Lawyer and Prison Reformer, Dies at 72, N.Y. Times (May
31, 2020), https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/31/obituaries/benjamin-smalls-dead.html.

93

U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Office of the Inspector General (OIG), A
Review of Federal Prison Industries’ Electronic-Waste Recycling
Program, (2010), https://oig.justice.gov/reports/BOP/o1010.pdf.

94

Id.

95

Tarver v. McLaughlin, M.D. Ga., Case No. 5:14-CV-214-MTT-MSH
(July 18, 2017); AP, Georgia to Pay $550,000 to Convicted Felon For
Amputation, Assoc. Press (Sept. 23, 2017), https://apnews.com/
article/1a49ef1f1bfb4cd0b603fdcb41817287.

106

Robert Dalheim, Inmate Sues Colorado Sawmill After Grave Saw
Injury, Woodworking Network (Aug. 15, 2017), https://www.
woodworkingnetwork.com/news/woodworking-industry-news/
inmate-sues-colorado-sawmill-after-grave-saw-injury.

Kiera Feldman, California Kept Prison Factories Open. Inmates
Worked for Pennies an Hour as Covid-19 Spread. L.A. Times (Oct.
11, 2020), https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-10-11/
california-prison-factories-inmates-covid-19.

107

J. Carlee Purdum, States Are Putting Prisoners to Work
Manufacturing Coronavirus Supplies, Chicago Reporter (April 23,
2020), https://www.chicagoreporter.com/states-are-putting-prisoners-to-work-manufacturing-coronavirus-supplies/; Matt Miller,
Pa. Prison Inmates Working 12-Hour Shifts Producing Masks to
Shield Themselves, Guards from Coronavirus, PennLive Real-Time
News (Apr. 7, 2020), https://www.pennlive.com/news/2020/04/
pa-prison-inmates-working-12-hour-shifts-producing-masks-toshield-themselves-guards-from-coronavirus.html.

108

Chris Strohm, Federal Inmates to Make Cloth Virus
Masks for Prisoners, Bloomberg (Apr. 6, 2020), https://
www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-06/
federal-inmates-to-make-cloth-virus-masks-for-prisoners-guards.

96

97

Kirk Mitchell, Inmate Sues Pueblo Sawmill, Colorado
Prison Officials After Serious Injury, Denver Post (Aug.
14, 2017), https://www.denverpost.com/2017/08/14/
pueblo-sawmill-injury-colorado-prison-lawsuit/.

98

Rachel Ellis, Prison Labor in a Pandemic, 19 Contexts: Soc. for
the Pub. 66 (Dec. 14, 2020), https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/
full/10.1177/1536504220977950.

99

Rachel Ellis, Prison Labor in a Pandemic, 19 Contexts: Soc. for
the Pub. 66 (Dec. 14, 2020), https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/
full/10.1177/1536504220977950.

100

Marjorie Segule, Katherine LeMasters, Meghan Peterson et
al., Incarcerated Workers: Overlooked as Essential Workers, BMC
Public Health 22, 506 (Mar. 2022), https://doi.org/10.1186/
s12889-022-12886-7.

109

Deanna Hackney and Eric Levenson, Texas Turns to Prison Labor
to Help Cover Face Mask Shortages, CNN (Mar. 23, 2020), https://
www.cnn.com/2020/03/22/us/texas-coronavirus-mask-trnd/
index.html.

101

Tess Riski, Oregon Hospitals Rely on Prison Labor to Do Their
Laundry During the Pandemic, Willamette Week (Apr. 22, 2020),
https://www.wweek.com/news/2020/04/22/oregon-hospitalsrely-on-prison-labor-to-do-their-laundry-during-the-pandemic/;
Marissane Lewis-Thompson, Missouri Inmates Clean Hospital
Laundry, St. Louis Public Radio (Apr. 29, 2020), https://news.
stlpublicradio.org/health-science-environment/2020-04-29/
missouri-inmates-clean-hospital-laundry.

110

Marjorie Segule, Katherine LeMasters, Meghan Peterson et
al., Incarcerated Workers: Overlooked as Essential Workers, BMC
Public Health 22, 506 (Mar. 2022), https://doi.org/10.1186/
s12889-022-12886-7.

111

Id.; COVID Prison Project, An Analysis of Interim Covid19 Vaccination Plans, by Morgan Maner (2020), https://
covidprisonproject.com/blog/data/data-analysis/an-analysis-of-interim-covid-19-vaccination-plans/; Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 Vaccination Program Interim
Playbook for Jurisdiction Operations (Oct. 2020), https://www.cdc.
gov/vaccines/imz-managers/downloads/Covid-19-VaccinationProgram-Interim_Playbook.pdf.

112

Cary Aspinwall, Keri Blakinger, and Joseph Neff, Federal Prison
Factories Kept Running as Coronavirus Spread, Marshall Project

102

Alana Rocha, Incarcerated Texans Enlisted to Work in County
Morgue as COVID-19 Deaths Overwhelm El Paso, Texas Tribune
(Nov. 15, 2020), https://www.texastribune.org/2020/11/15/
coronavirus-texas-el-paso-inmates-morgue-deaths/.

103

Ryan Grim, Rikers Island Prisoners Are Being Offered
PPE and $6 an Hour to Dig Mass Graves, The Intercept

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109

(Apr. 10, 2020), https://www.themarshallproject.org/2020/04/10/
federal-prison-factories-kept-running-as-coronavirus-spread.
113

114

Jerry Iannelli, As Covid-19 Ravages Florida, Incarcerated People
Are Still Doing the State’s Hard Outdoor Labor, The Appeal (Apr. 9,
2020), https://theappeal.org/covid-19-prison-labor-florida/.
Coleen Slevin, Colorado Inmates Say State Is Violating Ban on
Forced Work, Associated Press (Feb. 16, 2022); Lora Korpar,
Inmates Say Colorado Prison Added Time to Sentences When They
Refused Work, Newsweek (Feb. 16, 2022).

126

National Employment Law Project, Fair Chance Licensing
Reform, by Beth Avery, Maurice Emsellem, and Han Lu
(Dec. 2019), https://s27147.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/
FairChanceLicensing-v4-2019.pdf.

127

Beth Schwartzapfel, Taking Freedom: Modern-Day Slavery in
America’s Prison Workforce, Pac. Standard (May 7, 2018), https://
psmag.com/social-justice/taking-freedom-modern-day-slavery.

128

Prison Policy Initiative, The Company Store: A Deeper Look
at Prison Commissaries, by Stephen Raher (May 2018),
https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/commissary.html;
Brennan Center For Justice, Charging Inmates Perpetuates
Mass Incarceration, by Lauren-Brooke Eisen (2005), https://
www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/
charging-inmates-perpetuates-mass-incarceration.

129

See, e.g., Prison Policy Initiative, State of Phone Justice: Local Jails,
State Prisons and Private Phone Providers, by Peter Wagner and
Alexi Jones (Feb. 2019), https://www.prisonpolicy.org/phones/
state_of_phone_justice.html.

115

Richard Lilgerose and Harold Mortis v. Jared Polis, Dean Williams,
and Colorado Dep’t of Corrections, Compl. filed Feb. 15, 2022, Dist.
Ct. Denver Cty. Colorado, https://towardsjustice.org/wp-content/
uploads/2022/02/Amendment-A-litigation-Complaint-Stamped.
pdf.

116

Jerry Iannelli, Video Captures Poor Conditions at Louisiana Poultry
Plant Where Prisoners Are Sent To Work, The Appeal (May 28,
2020), https://theappeal.org/louisiana-poultry-plant-prison-labor/.

117

See, e.g., Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections,
Reentry Initiatives & Transitional Work Programs, https://doc.
louisiana.gov/offender-programs-resources/transition-reentry/.

130

See, e.g., James Kilgore, The Myth of Prison Slave Labor Camps in
the U.S., Counterpunch (Aug. 9, 2013), https://www.counterpunch.
org/2013/08/09/the-myth-of-prison-slave-labor-camps-in-the-u-s/.

118

U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Survey of Prison
Inmates, United States, 2016. Inter-university Consortium for
Political and Social Research [distributor], (Sept. 2021), https://
doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR37692.v4. This estimate is based on ACLU
analysis of the published raw survey data.

131

Prison Policy Initiative, Following the Money of Mass Incarceration,
by Peter Wagner and Bernadette Rabuy (Jan. 25, 2017), https://
www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/money.html.

132

Id.

Beth Schwartzapfel, Taking Freedom: Modern-Day Slavery in
America’s Prison Workforce, Pac. Standard (May 7, 2018), https://
psmag.com/social-justice/taking-freedom-modern-day-slavery.

133

Id.

134

J. Carlee Purdum and Michelle Meyer, Prisoner Labor Throughout
the Life Cycle of Disasters, Risk, Hazards & Crisis in Public Policy
(May 12, 2020).

135

Id.

136

U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Federal Prison
Industries, Inc. (UNICOR), Fiscal Year 2021 Annual Management
Report (Nov. 12, 2021), https://www.unicor.gov/publications/
reports/FY2021_AnnualMgmtReport.pdf. See also UNICOR, FY
2021 FPI Sales by 4-Digit FSC Code and Customer (2021), https://
www.unicor.gov/publications/reports/FY21AnnualSalesReport.
pdf (reporting that net sales totaled nearly $543 million).

137

Illinois Correctional Industries, 2020 Annual Report (2021), http://
www.icicatalog.illinois.gov/Documents/AnnualReport/FY20%20
Annual%20Report_.pdf.

138

California Prison Industry Authority (CALPIA), CALPIA Report
to the Legislature, FY 2020-21 (Feb. 2022) at 28, https://www.
calpia.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/calpia/news/Reports_and_
Publications/Report%20To%20The%20Legislature%20FY%20
2020-21%20(APPROVED%2012-16-21)%20low-res.pdf.

139

According to the National Correctional Industries Association
(NCIA), the value of saleable goods and services produced by incarcerated workers in prison industries programs nationwide totaled
$2,089,022,613 in 2021. Telephone interview with Wil Heslop,
interim executive director, NCIA, Nov. 18, 2021, citing 2021 NCIA
Directory.

119

120

Bruce Western, Inside the Box: Safety, Health, and Isolation in
Prison, 35 J. of Economic Perspectives 97, 102-103 (Fall 2021),
https://pubs.aeaweb.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1257/jep.35.4.97.

121

Michael Gibson-Light, The Prison as Market: How Penal Labor
Systems Reproduce Inequality, PhD diss. at 95 (University of
Arizona, 2019).

122

Interview with Jerome Morgan, Free-Dem Foundations Co-Founder,
in New Orleans, LA (Nov. 6, 2019) (on file with authors).

123

Louisiana Legislative Auditor, Prison Enterprises—Evaluation of
Operations, Department of Public Safety and Corrections (May 1,
2019), https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/media/publications/
Louisiana_Legislative_Auditor_-_Prison_Enterprises_-_
Evaluation_of_Operations_Dept._of_Public_Safety_and_
Corrections_2019.pdf.

124

125

110

PEER Mississippi, Joint Legislative Committee on Performance
Evaluation and Expenditure Review, Issue Brief: A Review of the
Sustainability of the Mississippi Prison Industries Corporation (Nov.
17, 2021) at 4 https://www.peer.ms.gov/Reports/reports/rpt663.
pdf.
U. S. Commission on Civil Rights Briefing Report, Collateral
Consequences: The Crossroads of Punishment, Redemption, and the
Effects on Communities, at 35 (June 2019), https://www.usccr.gov/
files/pubs/2019/06-13-Collateral-Consequences.pdf.

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140

Asatar Bair, An Economic Analysis of Prison Labor in the United
States, PhD diss. (University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2004) at
194.

141

U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Justice
Expenditures and Employment in the United States, 2017 (July 2021)
at 5-6, https://bjs.ojp.gov/sites/g/files/xyckuh236/files/media/
document/jeeus17.pdf; U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice
Statistics, Prisoners in 2020—Statistical Tables (Dec. 2021) at 7,
https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/pdf/p20st.pdf; Prison Policy
Initiative, Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2022, by Wendy
Sawyer and Peter Wagner (Mar. 14, 2022), https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2022.html.

142

Estimate calculated by economist Eric Seligman, based on analysis
of the wage data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics 2004 Survey
of Prison Inmates and Bureau of Prisons data on state correctional
spending, extrapolating to aggregate numbers of the total prison
population. Interview with Eric Seligman, John Jay College of
Criminal Justice, City University of New York (March 28, 2022).

143

Vera Institute of Justice, The Price of Prisons: Examining State
Spending Trends, 2010-2015 (May 2017) at 9, https://www.vera.
org/downloads/publications/the-price-of-prisons-2015-statespending-trends.pdf. See also John Pfaff, The Incalculable Costs of
Mass Incarceration, The Appeal (Sept. 20, 2018), https://theappeal.
org/the-incalculable-costs-of-mass-incarceration/; Prison Policy
Initiative, Following the Money of Mass Incarceration (Feb. 25, 2017),
https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/money.html.

144

U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Justice
Expenditures and Employment in the United States, 2017 (July 2021)
at 8, https://bjs.ojp.gov/sites/g/files/xyckuh236/files/media/
document/jeeus17.pdf.

145

Eli Rosenberg, Louisiana Sheriff Argues against Releasing
Prisoners ‘You Can Work,’ Drawing Slavery Comparisons, Wash.
Post (Oct. 12, 2017), https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/
post-nation/wp/2017/10/12/louisiana-sheriff-argues-against-releasing-prisoners-you-can-work-drawing-slavery-comparisons/.

146

See Julia O’Donoghue, Sheriff: Louisiana’s Early Release of
Prisoners Means Loss of ‘the ones you can work’, The TimesPicayune (Oct. 13, 2017). https://www.nola.com/news/politics/
article_50001c2c-c3c4-528e-9bb2-210b9f30f964.html (quoting the
Sheriff of Caddo Parish, Louisiana, comments made in response to
the 2017 Justice Reinvestment Act).

147

Paige St. John, Federal Judges Order California to Expand Prison
Releases, L.A. Times (Nov. 14, 2014), https://www.latimes.com/
local/political/la-me-ff-federal-judges-order-state-to-release-moreprisoners-20141114-story.html.

148

See Ji Hyun Rhim, Left at the Gate: How Gate Money Could Help
Prisoners Reintegrate Upon Release, 106 Cornell Law Rev. 783
(March 27, 2021); Daniel Munczek Edelman, Cash for Leaving
Prison: A New Solution to Recidivism?, Stanford Social Innovation
Rev., (Aug. 15, 2017), https://ssir.org/articles/entry/cash_for_
leaving_prison_a_new_solution_to_recidivism. See also Kristin
Toussaint, This Program is Testing What Happens When You Give
Cash to People Leaving Prison, Fast Company (Sept. 28, 2021),
https://www.fastcompany.com/90680420/this-program-is-testing-what-happens-when-you-give-cash-to-people-leaving-prison.

149

See, e.g., Center for Economic and Policy Research, Ex-offenders and
the Labor Market, by John Schmitt and Kris Warner (Nov. 2010),
http://cepr.net/documents/publications/ex-offenders-2010-11.
pdf; Eugene M. Hyman, The Scarlet Letter and Other Roadblocks to
Redemption for Female Offenders, 54 Santa Clara L. Rev. 119, 123
(2014); Urban Institute, Employment after Prison: A Longitudinal
Study of Releasees in Three States, by Christy Visher, Sara DebusSherrill, and Jennifer Yahner (Oct. 20, 2008), https://www.urban.
org/research/publication/employment-after-prison-longitudinal-study-releasees-three-states; American Bar Association,
Commission on Effective Criminal Sanctions, Second Chances
in the Criminal Justice System: Alternatives to Incarceration and
Reentry Strategies (2007).

150

American Bar Association, Commission on Effective Criminal
Sanctions, Second Chances in the Criminal Justice System:
Alternatives to Incarceration and Reentry Strategies (2007); Steven
D. Bell, The Long Shadow: Decreasing Barriers to Employment,
Housing, and Civic Participation for People with Criminal Records
Will Improve Public Safety and Strengthen the Economy, 42 W. St. L.
Rev. 1, 10 (2014); U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice, Council of
State Justice Center, National Reentry Resource Center.

151

Rand Corporation, Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional
Education: A Meta-Analysis of Programs that Provide Education
to Incarcerated Adults, xvii (2013), https://www.rand.org/pubs/
research_reports/RR266.html.

152

California Prison Industry Authority (CALPIA), The Effect of
Prison Industry On Recidivism: An Evaluation of California Prison
Industry Authority (CALPIA) (finding that over a three-year period,
CALPIA participants returned to prison, on average, 26 to 38
percent less often than incarcerated individuals released from
the CDCR general population) (Nov. 2021) at 16, https://www.
calpia.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/calpia/news/Reports_and_
Publications/The%20Effect%20of%20Prison%20Industry%20
on%20Recidivism-V2-PIA.pdf.

153

See Federal Bureau of Prisons, FPI and Vocational Training Works:
Post-Release Employment Project (PREP), http://www.bop.gov/
resources/pdfs/prep_summary_05012012.pdf; see also Federal
Bureau of Prisons, UNICOR: Preparing Inmates for Successful
Reentry through Job Training, http://www.bop.gov/inmates/custody_and_care/unicor.jsp; Federal Bureau of Prisons, UNICOR
Program Details, https://www.bop.gov/inmates/custody_and_
care/unicor_about.jsp. The share of UNICOR jobs (8 percent) is
shrinking, down from 25 percent in 2009. See House Subcommittee
on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, Committee on the
Judiciary, Federal Bureau of Prisons Oversight Hearing (July 21,
2009).

154

Rand Corporation, Education and Vocational Training in Prisons
Reduces Recidivism, Improves Job Outlook (Aug. 22, 2013), https://
www.rand.org/news/press/2013/08/22.html.

155

American Correctional Association (ACA), Supporting Repeal of
the “Exclusion Clause” in Section I of the Thirteenth Amendment of
the U.S. Constitution (adopted by the ACA Delegate Assembly at the
146th Congress of Correction, Aug. 9, 2016), https://www.house.leg.
state.mn.us/comm/docs/469186d6-bf9d-4a9d-9211-fdfedb48bcee.
pdf.

156

Jones v. N. Carolina Prisoners’ Lab. Union, Inc., 433 U.S. 119
(1a977).

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111

157

Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee and Jailhouse
Lawyers Speak, August 21st Is Going To Be Lit (June 12, 2018),
https://incarceratedworkers.org/news/august-21st-going-be-lit.
See also Mike Elk, The Next Step for Organized Labor? People in
Prison, The Nation (July 11, 2016), https://www.thenation.com/
article/archive/the-next-step-for-organized-labor-people-in-prison/.

158

Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, National Prison Strike Call To Action—
August 21st 2018 to September 9th 2018 (June 2, 2018), https://
supportprisonerresistance.noblogs.org/post/2018/06/02/
national-prison-strike-call-to-action-august-21st-2018-to-september9th-2018/. See also Mitch Smith, Prison Strike Organizers Aim to
Improve Conditions and Pay, N.Y. Times (Aug. 26, 2018), https://
www.nytimes.com/2018/08/26/us/national-prison-strike-2018.
html.

159

160

161

Hereinafter “the authors.” While this report represents the views
and perspectives of students, faculty and staff of the Global Human
Rights Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School, it does not
represent an institutional position of the Law School.
The following states replied to the FOIA requests, with varying
degrees of responsiveness: Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas,
Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana,
Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon,
Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Washington,
West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. The remaining states did
not respond to the FOIA requests.
U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Survey of Prison
Inmates, United States, 2016. Inter-university Consortium for
Political and Social Research [distributor], (Sept. 2021), https://
doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR37692.v4.

162

U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Methodology:
Survey of Prison Inmates, 2016 (July 2019) at 1, 5, https://bjs.ojp.
gov/content/pub/pdf/mspi16.pdf. The actual sample size was
37,058 incarcerated people.

163

Including one from Big Muddy River Correctional Center, 10 from
Centralia Correctional Center, three from Danville Correctional
Center, one from Decatur Correctional Center, one from Dixon
Correctional Center, two from Graham Correctional Center, three
from Hill Correctional Center, two from Illinois River Correctional
Center, one from Jacksonville Correctional Center, one from Joilet
Treatment Center, two from Lawrence Correctional Center, three
from Lincoln Correctional Center, five from Menard Correctional
Center, one from Pickneyville Correctional Center, two from
Pontiac Correctional Center, one from Robinson Correctional
Center, one from Shawnee Correctional Center, two from Stateville
Correctional Center, two from Taylorville Correctional Center, and
four from Western Illinois Correctional Center

164

112

Including one from California Correctional Institution – Tehachapi,
one from California Healthcare Facility, seven from California
Medical Facility, one from California Rehabilitation Center, two
from California State Prison – Los Angeles, four from California
State Prison – Solano, one from California State Prison Vacaville,
two from Calipatria State Prison, one from Central California’s
Women Facility, two from Chuckawalla Valley State Prison, one
from Folsom State Prison, one from Ironwood State Prison, two
from Lancaster State Prison, six from Mule Creek State Prison,
one from the R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility, and two from San
Quentin State Prison.

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165

Including one from Caldwell Correctional Center, three from David
Wade Correctional Center, three from Elayn Hunt Correctional
Center, one from Franklin Parish Detention Center, two from
Louisiana State Penitentiary, two from Louisiana Transitional
Center for Women, one from Madison Parish Correctional Center,
two from Rayburn Correctional Center, and three from Raymond
Laborde Correctional Center.

166

See, e.g., Wallace v. Robinson, 940 F.2d 243, 246-7 (7th Cir. 1991);
Williams v. Meese, 926 F.2d 994, 998 (10th Cir. 1991).

167

According to the Prison Policy Initiative in 2022, there are almost
2 million people held behind bars, including roughly 1,042,000 in
state prisons, 547,000 in local jails, and 208,000 in federal prisons
and jails. See, Prison Policy Initiative, Mass Incarceration: The
Whole Pie 2022, by Wendy Sawyer and Peter Wagner (Mar. 14,
2022), https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2022.html.

168

U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Prisoners in
2020—Statistical Tables (Dec. 2021) at 7, https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/pdf/p20st.pdf. See also Prison Policy Initiative, Mass
Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2022, by Wendy Sawyer and Peter
Wagner (Mar. 14, 2022), https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/
pie2022.html.

169

U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Survey of Prison
Inmates, United States, 2016. Inter-university Consortium for
Political and Social Research [distributor], (Sept. 2021), https://
doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR37692.v4. This estimate is based on ACLU
analysis of the published raw survey data.

170

Id. This estimate is based on ACLU analysis of the published
raw survey data, which revealed that 65.1 percent of survey
respondents reported having a work assignment. We applied this
percentage to the most recently published data on the state and
federal prison population, which totaled 1,215,821 at yearend 2020,
according to data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics published
in December 2021, arriving at an estimated 791,499 incarcerated workers. U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics,
Prisoners in 2020—Statistical Tables (Dec. 2021) at 7, https://bjs.ojp.
gov/content/pub/pdf/p20st.pdf.

171

This figure includes 775,469 incarcerated people participating in
work programs and 24,738 incarcerated people participating in
work release. U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics,
Census of State and Federal Correctional Facilities, 2005 (Oct.
2008) at Appendix Table 16 and 17, https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/
pub/pdf/csfcf05.pdf.

172

U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Census of
State and Federal Correctional Facilities, 2005 (Oct. 2008) at
2, https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/pdf/csfcf05.pdf. This 50
percent data point lead to the widely cited figure of 870,000
incarcerated workers. See, e.g., Beth Schwartzapfel, Taking
Freedom: Modern-Day Slavery in America’s Prison Workforce,
Pac. Standard (May 7, 2018), https://psmag.com/social-justice/
taking-freedom-modern-day-slavery.

173

ACLU analysis of data published in U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of
Justice Statistics, Survey of Prison Inmates, United States, 2016.
Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research
[distributor], (Sept. 2021), https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR37692.
v4.

174

175

176

177

178

U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Survey of Prison
Inmates, United States, 2016. Inter-university Consortium for
Political and Social Research [distributor], (Sept. 2021), https://
doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR37692.v4. This figure is based on ACLU
analysis of the published raw survey data.

182

Genevieve LeBaron, Rethinking Prison Labor: Social Discipline and
the State in Historical Perspective, 15 J. of Lab. and Soc’y 327, 333
(2012).

183

Id. at 334-35.

U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Methodology:
Survey of Prison Inmates, 2016 (July 2019) at 1, 5 https://bjs.ojp.
gov/content/pub/pdf/mspi16.pdf. The actual sample size was
37,058 incarcerated people.

184

Id. at 335.

185

Id. at 334.

186

Id. at 327.

187

Id. at 338; Christopher R. Adamson, Punishment after Slavery:
Southern State Penal Systems, 1865-1890, 30 Soc. Probs. 555, 556
(1983).

188

Matthew Mancini, One Dies, Get Another: Convict Leasing in the
American South, 1866-1928 (Columbia, SC: University of South
Carolina Press, 1996); Andrea Armstrong, Slavery Revisited in
Penal Plantation Labor, 35 Seattle U. L. Rev. 835, 877 (2012).

189

Douglas A. Blackmon, Slavery By Another Name 8, 56, 67 (New
York: Anchor Books, 2008); Genevieve LeBaron, Rethinking Prison
Labor: Social Discipline and the State in Historical Perspective, 15 J.
of Lab. and Soc’y 327, 337 (2012).

190

Id. at 339.

191

Heather Ann Thompson, Rethinking Working-Class Struggle
through the Lens of the Carceral State: Toward a Labor History of
Inmates and Guards, 8 Lab.: Stud. in Working-Class Hist. 15, 16
(2011); David M. Oshinsky, Worse Than Slavery: Parchman Farm
and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice (New York, Free Press, 1997).

192

Stephen P. Garvey, Freeing Prisoners’ Labor, 50 Stan. L. Rev. 339,
361-62 (1998).

193

Id.

194

Id.

195

Three Prisons Act, ch. 529, sec. 2, 26 Stat. 839 (1891).

196

Alex Lichtenstein, Twice the Work of Free Labor: The Political
Economy of Convict Labor in the New South (New York: Verso,
1996).

197

Mitchel P. Roth, Prisons and Prison Systems: A Global
Encyclopedia (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2006).

U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Prisoners in
2020—Statistical Tables (Dec. 2021) at 7, https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/pdf/p20st.pdf.
In 1991, 70 percent of surveyed state prisoners reported having a
work assignment, while 91.2 percent of surveyed federal prisoners
reported having a work assignment (540,392 state and federal
prisoners reported having work assignments, of a total 755,539
who responded to the survey question); in 1997 those figures had
dropped to 87 percent of federal prisoners and 60 percent of state
prisoners. Prior to 1991, the survey did not include people incarcerated in federal prisons. A slightly higher percentage of people
incarcerated in state prisons reported holding a work assignment
at the time of the surveys of state prisoners conducted in 1974
(when the proportion of state prisoners with a work assignment hit
a high of 78 percent), 1979, and 1986. U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau
of Justice Statistics, Comparing Federal and State Prison Inmates,
1991 (1994) at 19-20, https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/pdf/
cfspi91.pdf; Government Accountability Office (GAO), Prisoner
Release Trends and Reintegration Programs (2001) at 16, https://
www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/GAOREPORTS-GAO-01-483/
html/GAOREPORTS-GAO-01-483.htm. See also U.S. Dep’t of
Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Survey of Inmates in State
and Federal Correctional Facilities 1991, 1997, 2004; U.S. Dep’t
of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Survey of Prison Inmates,
2016. See also Bruce Western, Inside the Box: Safety, Health, and
Isolation in Prison, 35 J. of Econ. Perspectives 97, 103 (2021).
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics prison census, 98.7
percent of state and federal public adult correctional facilities offer
work programs for people incarcerated in those facilities, while 89.7
percent of private facilities offered such programs as of midyear
2019. The work programs measured include facility support services to maintain the prisons where workers are confined; prison
industries; public work assignments; and farming or agriculture.
U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Census of State
and Federal Adult Correctional Facilities, 2019 – Statistical Tables
(Nov. 2021) at 13, https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/pdf/csfacf19st.
pdf.

198
179

U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Census of State
and Federal Adult Correctional Facilities, 2019 – Statistical Tables
(Nov. 19, 2021) at 13, https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/pdf/csfacf19st.pdf.

Stanley E. Grupp, Work Release in the United States, 54 J. Crim. L.
and Criminology 267 (1963).

199

Id.

200 Id.
180

181

The Sentencing Project, The Color of Justice: Racial and
Ethnic Disparity in State Prisons (Oct. 13, 2021), https://www.
sentencingproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/The-Color-ofJustice-Racial-and-Ethnic-Disparity-in-State-Prisons.pdf.
U.S. Const. amend. XIII (“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have
been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any
place subject to their jurisdiction”).

201

Id.

202 Act of May 14, 1930, ch. 274 § 3, 46 Stat. 325 (1930).
203 Heather Ann Thompson, Rethinking Working-Class Struggle
through the Lens of the Carceral State: Toward a Labor History of
Inmates and Guards, 8 Lab.: Stud. in Working-Class Hist. 15, 20
(2011).

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113

204 Id.

doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR37692.v4. Estimate is based on ACLU
analysis of raw survey data.

205 Labor Advances Platform Points, N.Y. Times (June 11, 1928),
https://www.nytimes.com/1928/06/11/archives/labor-advancesplatform-points-federation-will-ask-both-parties-for.html.

216

Interview with Andrea Armstrong, professor of law at Loyola
College of Law, in New Orleans, LA, (Apr. 15, 2019) (on file with
authors) (interview concerning issues reported to Professor
Armstrong by incarcerated people); Interview with James “JC”
Cavitt, housing and outreach coordinator at Project Rebound, Long
Beach, CA (June 18th, 2021) (on file with authors).

217

Michigan Department of Corrections, Work Assignment Pay and
School Stipend, Document Number 05.02.110A, FOIA response document (on file with authors); Michigan Department of Corrections,
Appendix E, Job Specifications, E-51, FOIA response document (on
file with authors).

218

Id.

219

Zippia, Average Plumber Salary By State, https://www.zippia.com/
plumber-jobs/salary/.

206 Ashurst-Sumners Act (Shipment in Interstate Commerce of
Convict Made Goods), Pub. L. No. 74-215, 49 Stat. 494 (1935) (codified at 18 U.S.C. § 1761).
207 Heather Ann Thompson, Rethinking Working-Class Struggle
through the Lens of the Carceral State: Toward a Labor History of
Inmates and Guards, 8 Lab.: Stud. in Working-Class Hist. 15, 30-31
(2011).
208 Joe Hudson, Contemporary Origins of Restorative Justice
Programming: The Minnesota Restitution Center, 76 Fed. Prob.: J.
of Corr. Phil. and Prac. (2012), https://www.uscourts.gov/sites/
default/files/76_2_9_0.pdf.
209 E.g., Nevada in 1979 (1979 Nev. Stat. 743), California in 1984 (Cal.
Penal Code § 6220), Mississippi in 1978 (Miss. Code § 99-37-19).
210

211

212

Joe Hudson, Contemporary Origins of Restorative Justice
Programming: The Minnesota Restitution Center, 76 Fed. Prob.: J.
of Corr. Phil. and Prac. (2012), https://www.uscourts.gov/sites/
default/files/76_2_9_0.pdf.
E.g., Patrick McGreevy, State Restitution Centers Shut, L.A. Times
(Jan. 13, 2009), https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2009jan-13-me-prison13-story.html; Matt Clarke, Texas Counties Give
Up on Probationer Restitution Centers, Prison Legal News (Mar. 15,
2010), https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2010/mar/15/
texas-counties-give-up-on-probationer-restitution-centers/.
Under 18 U.S.C. § 1761(c), prevailing wages are defined as “wages
at a rate which is not less than that paid for work of a similar nature
in the locality in which the work was performed.”

213

Interview with Vanessa Nelson-Sloane, staff member at the Life
Support Alliance, (Dec. 23, 2020) (on file with authors).

214

U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Survey of Prison
Inmates, United States, 2016. Inter-university Consortium for
Political and Social Research [distributor], (Sept. 2021), https://
doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR37692.v4 (figures are based on ACLU analysis of the raw survey data); U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice
Statistics, Survey of Inmates in State Correctional Facilities,
2004 (Feb. 2007), https://bjs.ojp.gov/data-collection/survey-inmates-state-correctional-facilities-siscf; Bureau of Justice Statistics,
Census of State and Federal Correctional Facilities (2005), https://
bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/pdf/csfcf05.pdf; Telephone interview
with Wil Heslop, interim executive director, National Correctional
Industries Association (NCIA), Nov. 18, 2021, citing 2021 NCIA
Directory; National Correctional Industries Association, Prison
Industry Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP) Certification
& Cost Accounting Center Listing: Q3 2021 Certification Listing
Report, Nat’l Corr. Indus. Ass’n: PIECP Statistical Reports
(published March 2022), https://www.nationalcia.org/_files/ugd/569cf7_0ab8d011f21b4127b18d15c77d104f45.pdf.

215

114

U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Survey of Prison
Inmates, United States, 2016. Inter-university Consortium for
Political and Social Research [distributor], (Sept. 2021), https://

ACLU Research Report

220 U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Census of State
and Federal Adult Correctional Facilities, 2019 – Statistical Tables
(Nov. 19, 2021) at 13, https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/pdf/csfacf19st.pdf.
221

U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Survey of Prison
Inmates, United States, 2016. Inter-university Consortium for
Political and Social Research [distributor], (Sept. 2021), https://
doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR37692.v4. This figure is based on ACLU
analysis of the raw survey data.

222 Id. These percentages are based on ACLU analysis of the raw
survey data.
223 Id.
224 Telephone interview with Wil Heslop, interim executive director,
National Correctional Industries Association (NCIA), Nov. 18, 2021,
citing 2021 NCIA Directory.
225 Data is for fiscal year 2011. National Correctional Industries
Association (NCIA), 2012 NCIA Directory (Baltimore, MD: NCIA,
2012), at 133, available at https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/
InterimCommittee/REL/Document/6986.
226 Data is for fiscal year 2008. National Correctional Industries
Association (NCIA), 2009 NCIA Directory (Baltimore, MD: NCIA,
2009).
227

Precise total sales for 2021 was $2,089,022,613. Telephone
interview with Wil Heslop, interim executive director, National
Correctional Industries Association (NCIA), Nov. 18, 2021, citing
2021 NCIA Directory.

228 U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Census of State
and Federal Adult Correctional Facilities, 2019 – Statistical Tables
(Nov. 2021) at 13, https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/pdf/csfacf19st.
pdf.
229 Alaska’s legislature repealed the state’s prison industries program
in 2005.
230 See Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and
Expenditure Review (PEER) Mississippi, Issue Brief: A Review of

231

the Sustainability of the Mississippi Prison Industries Corporation
(Nov. 17, 2021) at 5 https://www.peer.ms.gov/Reports/reports/
rpt663.pdf.

240 Mississippi Department of Corrections, Inmate Work Crews,
https://www.mdoc.ms.gov/Institutions/Pages/Inmate-WorkCrews.aspx.

See, e.g., Illinois Department of Corrections, ICI Criteria for
Inmate Assignment by Function, FOIA response document (on file
with authors); Michigan Department of Corrections, Appendix
D – Available Work Assignments – Michigan State Industries (MSI),
FOIA response document (on file with authors).

241

232 See UNICOR, Product Lines, https://www.unicor.gov/publications/corporate/CATMC4505_C.pdf.
233 See generally, National Correctional Industries Association,
Online Buyers’ Guide, https://my.nationalcia.org/
buyers-guide?reload=timezone
234 U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Census of State
and Federal Adult Correctional Facilities, 2019 – Statistical Tables
(Nov. 2021) at 13, https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/pdf/csfacf19st.
pdf.
235 Id.
236 National Correctional Industries Association (NCIA), Correctional
Industries: Frequently Asked Questions, citing the 2021 NCIA
Directory, www.nationalcia.org/_files/ugd/569cf7_59d928010f954e3e8c2db0fc64914b82.pdf.
237

Arkansas Division of Correction, Annual Report: Fiscal Year
2020 (Mar. 2021), at 38, https://doc.arkansas.gov/wp-content/
uploads/2021/03/Division-of-Correction-FY20-Annual-ReportBoard-of-Corrections-Approved-March-19-2021.pdf; Arkansas
Division of Correction, Inmate Handbook (Mar. 2020) at 6, https://
doc.arkansas.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Inmate_
Handbook_Updated_March_2020_Final_02_28_2020_pdf.pdf.

238 Ben Conark, Work Forced: A Century Later, Unpaid Prison Labor
Continues to Power Florida, Florida Times-Union (May 26, 2019),
https://stories.usatodaynetwork.com/workforced/.
239 Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC), County Prisons, http://
dcor.state.ga.us/Divisions/Facilities/CountyPrisons (stating
“Some low-security, long-term state prisoners are incarcerated
at county work camps. They provide unpaid, yet highly-skilled
work to the counties in which they are housed…. GDC offenders
assist in the maintenance of roads and parks; work at local
landfills; serve on local fire crews; assist with small construction
projects for government agencies, and assist local government
agencies as needed.”); Georgia Department of Corrections,
Reentry & Cognitive Programming, http://www.dcor.state.ga.us/
Divisions/Facilities/Transitional (stating “The maintenance
residents are assigned full-time to maintain the facility or other
state facilities in the area. For example, approximately half of
the residents assigned to the Atlanta Transitional Center are
maintenance workers who provide details to the Governor’s
Mansion, the State Capitol Complex, and the State Highway Patrol
Headquarters. These residents are not paid any wages.”); Adrian
Drepaul, I Had a Shitty Job in Prison, Marshall Project (Aug.
8, 2019), https://www.themarshallproject.org/2019/08/08/ihad-a-shitty-job-in-prison; Grady Capstone Journalist, Use of
Unpaid Inmate Labor Scrutinized in Athens-Clarke County, Grady
Newsource (Apr. 5, 2019), https://gradynewsource.uga.edu/
use-of-unpaid-inmate-labor-scrutinized-in-athens-clarke-county/.

South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC), SCDC Policy,
Admin-15.13; Inmate Pay, § 3 (2014), http://www.doc.sc.gov/
policy/ADM-15-13.htm.pdf; S.C. Code Ann. § 24-3-40; SCDC
letter to South Carolina Legislative Oversight Committee, Inmate
Work: Earning and Supervision Details, Policies, and Statutes
(May 24, 2019), https://www.scstatehouse.gov/CommitteeInfo/
HouseLegislativeOversightCommittee/AgencyWebpages/
Corrections/Statistics%20by%20type%20of%20inmate%20
work%20-%20qualifications,%20number%20working,%20costs,%20
etc..pdf.

242 Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Administrative Directive:
Use of Offender Labor for Community Work Projects, AD-007.11 (rev.
4, Oct. 26, 2015, https://www.tdcj.texas.gov/documents/policy/
AD0711.pdf; Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Community
and Public Work Project (Aug. 17, 2015), https://www.tdcj.texas.
gov/TDCJ_community_work.html.
243 These states are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California,
Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Illinois,
Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan,
Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada,
New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon,
Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas,
Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and
Wyoming.
244 U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Census of State
and Federal Adult Correctional Facilities, 2019 – Statistical Tables
(Nov. 2021) at 3, 13, https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/pdf/csfacf19st.pdf.
245 U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics,
Survey of Inmates in State Correctional Facilities,
2004 (Feb. 2007), https://bjs.ojp.gov/data-collection/
survey-inmates-state-correctional-facilities-siscf.
246 In 2005, the last year for which such data was made public, over half
of these prisons were located in the South. Of 798 correctional facilities with public works programs in 2005, 447 were located in the
South, 98 in the Northeast, 133 in the Midwest, and 120 in the West.
U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Census of State
and Federal Correctional Facilities, 2005 (Oct. 2008) at Appendix
Table 16, https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/pdf/csfcf05.pdf.
247

Ben Conark, Work Forced: A Century Later, Unpaid Prison Labor
Continues to Power Florida, Florida Times-Union (May 26, 2019),
https://stories.usatodaynetwork.com/workforced/.

248 In fiscal year 2019-2020, 466 worked on road squads for the state
Department of Transportation, while 514 worked on manual labor
jobs for state and local governments to provide janitorial services
and groundskeeping. During fiscal year 2020-2021, jobs outside the
prisons were significantly curtailed due to COVID-19 restrictions,
and only 204 worked on road squads and 207 worked for state and
local governments. North Carolina Department of Public Safety,
Fiscal Year 2019-2020 Annual Statistical Report (2020) at 16-17,
https://files.nc.gov/ncdps/FY-2019-20-Annual-Statistical-Report.
pdf; North Carolina Department of Public Safety, Fiscal Year 20202021 Annual Statistical Report (2021) at 18, https://files.nc.gov/
ncdps/Annual-Statistical-Report-FY-2020-2021.pdf. See also North

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115

Carolina Department of Public Safety, North Carolina Prison
Inmates at Work, https://www.doc.state.nc.us/work/workover.
htm; North Carolina Department of Correction, Division of Prisons,
Policy and Procedure: Inmate Labor for Public Work Projects, Ch. D,
Sec. 0711 (May 08, 2002), https://files.nc.gov/ncdps/div/prisons/
policy_procedure_manual/d.0700-inmate-labor-for-public-workprojects.pdf.
249 North Carolina Department of Public Safety, Community Work
Program (2020), https://www.doc.state.nc.us/dop/cwpjobs/cwprogra.htm.
250 Washington State Department of Correction, Participation by
Program Summary (2020), https://www.doc.wa.gov/docs/publications/reports/700-SR002-second-quarter.pdf; Washington State
Department of Correction, Policy 700.400 (2019), https://www.doc.
wa.gov/information/policies/files/700400.pdf.
251

Arizona Department of Corrections Rehabilitation and Reentry,
Corrections at a Glance, February 2022 (Mar. 8, 2022), https://
corrections.az.gov/sites/default/files/REPORTS/CAG/2022/
cagfeb-22.pdf.

252 Total hours logged by incarcerated workers on community labor
through their work on fire crews, public sector work crews, and
Arizona Department of Transportation work crews was 1,829,348
in FY 2020. Arizona Department of Corrections, Corrections at a
Glance, June 2020 https://corrections.az.gov/sites/default/files/
REPORTS/CAG/2020/cagjune-20.pdf.
253 Mississippi Department of Corrections, Inmate Work Crews,
https://www.mdoc.ms.gov/Institutions/Pages/Inmate-WorkCrews.aspx.
254 Mississippi Department of Corrections, FY 2020 Annual Report
(2021) at 26, https://www.mdoc.ms.gov/Admin-Finance/
Documents/2020%20Annual%20Report.pdf; Mississippi
Department of Corrections, State Prisons, https://www.mdoc.
ms.gov/Institutions/Pages/State-Prisons.aspx#msp.
255 Arkansas Department of Corrections, Annual Report Fiscal Year
2020, at 21 (2021),
https://doc.arkansas.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/
Division-of-Correction-FY20-Annual-Report-Board-of-CorrectionsApproved-March-19-2021.pdf.
256 J. Carlee Purdum and Michelle Meyer, Prisoner Labor Throughout
the Life Cycle of Disasters, Risk, Hazards & Crisis in Public Policy
(May 12, 2020).
257

Jessica Lipscomb, Unpaid Florida Prisoners Being Used
to Clean Up After Hurricane Irma, Miami New Times
(Sept. 28, 2017) https://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/
unpaid-florida-prison-inmates-being-used-on-hurricane-irma-cleanup-labor-crews-9701867; Polly Mosendz, When Do
You Move Prisoners Out of a Storm’s Path?, Bloomberg (Sept. 8,
2017), https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-08/
when-do-you-move-prisoners-out-of-a-hurricane-s-path.

258 Georgia Department of Corrections, Fire Services and Life Safety,
http://www.dcor.state.ga.us/Divisions/Facilities/FireServices;
Erin Paige McGonigle, First Responders, Second Priority:
Georgia’s Inmate Firefighter Program and International Human
Rights Standards, 48 Georgia J. Intl. & Comp. L. 189 (Apr. 11,

116

ACLU Research Report

2021), https://digitalcommons.law.uga.edu/cgi/viewcontent.
cgi?article=2471&context=gjicl.
259 See, e.g., P.J. Huffstutter, States Enlist Prisoners, Plan Biosecurity
to Combat Avian Flu Threat, Reuters (May 31, 2015).
260 Bureau of Justice Assistance, Prison Industry Enhancement
Certification Program Brief (2018). https://www.bja.gov/
Publications/PIECP-Program-Brief_2018.pdf.
261

Alfred C. Aman Jr. and Carol J. Greenhouse, Prison Privatization
and Inmate Labor in the Global Economy: Reframing the Debate
Over Private Prisons, 42 Fordham Urb. L. J. 355, 388 (2014).

262 As of the third quarter of 2021 ending on September 30, 2021,
4,860 incarcerated workers were employed through PIECP. See,
National Correctional Industries Association (NCIA), Prison
Industry Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP) Certification
& Cost Accounting Center Listing: Q3 2021 Certification Listing
Report (March 2022), https://www.nationalcia.org/_files/ugd/569cf7_0ab8d011f21b4127b18d15c77d104f45.pdf.
263 See, Bureau of Justice Assistance, Prison Industry Enhancement
Certification Program Brief (2018). https://www.bja.gov/
Publications/PIECP-Program-Brief_2018.pdf.
264 See Id. at 4.; George Washington University Center for
Economic Research for The National Corrections Association,
Identifying Beneficiaries of PIE Inmate Incomes (2003),
https://www.criminallegalnews.org/media/publications/
gwu_center_for_economic_research_re_identifying_beneficiaries_of_pie_inmate_incomes_jul_31_2003.pdf.
265 In 2005, it was reported that 28 percent of all correctional facilities
under state or federal authority (or 502 out of 1,821 total correctional facilities) offered work-release programs to incarcerated
people, but only 2 percent of the total custody population across all
facilities participated (or 24,739 out of 1,430,208 total incarcerated
individuals). In Illinois, only 13.6 percent of the total facilities in
the state offered work-release programs, with only 0.985 percent
of the incarcerated individuals participating (or 440 out of 44,669
incarcerated individuals). In California, only 10 percent of the
total facilities in the state offered work-release programs, with only
0.42 percent of the incarcerated individuals participating (or 728
out of 169,988 incarcerated individuals). Louisiana, on the other
hand, had a much higher number of facilities in the state offering
work-release programs (9 out of 23 total facilities, or 39 percent)
and incarcerated individuals participating (460 out of 20,344, or
2.26 percent). Bureau of Justice Statistics, Census of State and
Federal Correctional Facilities (2005), https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/
pub/pdf/csfcf05.pdf.
266 U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Census of State
and Federal Adult Correctional Facilities, 2019 – Statistical Tables
(Nov. 2021) at 19, https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/pdf/csfacf19st.
pdf.
267

On eligibility requirements alone, there is significant variation. For
example, in California, work release furloughs are only granted
to individuals incarcerated in a jail, and within 120 days of their
release date. See Public Policy Institute of California, Alternatives
to Incarceration in California, by Ryken Grattet and Brandon
Martin, https://www.ppic.org/publication/alternatives-to-incarceration-in-california/. The work-release programs in Illinois
are only available to those who are currently incarcerated in a

state prison, are within two years of release, and are classified
as “minimum security.” See, Illinois Department of Corrections,
Frequently Asked Questions, https://www2.illinois.gov/idoc/
aboutus/pages/faq.aspx#qst14. And in Louisiana, only those
who are six months to four years from the end of their prison
sentence are eligible to enter one of the state’s “Transitional
Work Programs” (i.e., work-release programs). See, Louisiana
Department of Public Safety and Corrections, Reentry Initiatives
& Transitional Work Programs, https://doc.louisiana.gov/
imprisoned-person-programs-resources/transition-reentry/.

273

See, e.g., Alabama Criminal Lawyers, Work Release Programs
in Alabama, https://www.criminal-defense-attorney.info/drugcrimes/alternative-sentencing/work-release/. See also Ala. Code §
14-8-32.

274

See, e.g., Public Policy Institute of California, Alternatives to
Incarceration in California, by Ryken Grattet and Brandon
Martin, https://www.ppic.org/publication/alternatives-to-incarceration-in-california/. The stay-at-home program operates like
probation. The incarcerated workers are not under confinement,
but still under supervision, i.e., they must report to a certain place
at a certain time and either check in with an officer or have community service hours signed off on. If they fail to report to work, they
can be considered to have committed an “escape” and/or sent back
to jail. See, e.g., Ala. Code § 14-8-42.

275

Under Florida law, for example, individuals who have recently been
released from prison without mandated supervision can seek a
referral to a Restitution Center from the Florida Department of
Corrections. See Fla. Admin. Code § 33-504.101(2)(b).

276

Anna Wolfe and Michelle Liu, Think Debtors Prisons Are a
Thing of the Past? Not in Mississippi, Marshall Project (Jan.
9, 2020), https://www.themarshallproject.org/2020/01/09/
think-debtors-prisons-are-a-thing-of-the-past-not-in-mississippi.

277

Michelle Liu and Anna Wolfe, How Mississippi’s ‘Supercharged
Temp Agencies’ Provide Inmate Labor to Employers, Mississippi
Today (Jan. 9, 2020), https://mississippitoday.org/2020/01/09/
restitution-labor/.

278

U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Census of State
and Federal Adult Correctional Facilities, 2019 – Statistical Tables
(Nov. 2021) at 13, https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/pdf/csfacf19st.
pdf.

279

U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Survey of Prison
Inmates, United States, 2016. Inter-university Consortium for
Political and Social Research [distributor], (Sept. 2021), https://
doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR37692.v4. Percentage is based on ACLU
analysis of the raw survey data. Arkansas Division of Correction,
Annual Report, Fiscal Year 2021 (Apr. 2022) at 48, https://doc.
arkansas.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/ADC-FY2021-AnnualReport-BOC-Approved-4.29.2022.pdf.

268 Cyrus O’Brien, “A Prison in Your Community”: Halfway Houses and
the Melding of Treatment and Control, J. of Am. Hist. (June 2021).
269 It is not uncommon for individuals confined at restitution
centers to have their wages collected directly by the state. See,
e.g., Mississippi Department of Corrections, Restitution Centers,
https://www.mdoc.ms.gov/Community-Corrections/Pages/
Restitution-Centers.aspx. See also Anna Wolfe and Michelle
Liu, Want out of Jail? First You Have to Take a Fast-Food Job,
Miss. Today: Working Toward Freedom (Jan. 9, 2020), https://
mississippitoday.org/2020/01/09/restitution/. These deductions
are common among work-release programs as well, though are
sometimes much more substantial. Indeed, individuals participating in work-release programs can be made to pay anywhere
from $100 a week to $127 per day to cover room and board,
transportation, and other fees. See, e.g., Public Policy Institute of
California, Alternatives to Incarceration in California, by Ryken
Grattet and Brandon Martin, https://www.ppic.org/publication/alternatives-to-incarceration-in-california/; John Howard
Association of Illinois, JHA 2018 Special Report on Fox Valley
Adult Transition Center and Reentry, https://static1.squarespace.
com/static/5beab48285ede1f7e8102102/t/5d13ae4b52113b00
01b1bba1/1561570892449/fox+valley+2018.pdf; Work Release
Programs Reduce Recidivism in Louisiana – At a Cost, Prison
Legal News (Apr. 3, 2017), https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/
news/2017/apr/3/work-release-programs-reduce-recidivism-louisiana-cost/. In some states, like in California, this is in addition
to a down payment, equal to two weeks’ worth of fees, which is due
prior to entering the program. See, e.g., Public Policy Institute of
California, Alternatives to Incarceration in California, by Ryken
Grattet and Brandon Martin, https://www.ppic.org/publication/
alternatives-to-incarceration-in-california/.
270

271

272

Ryken Grattet and Brandon Martin, Alternatives to Incarceration
in California, Pub. Pol’y Inst. of Cal., https://www.ppic.org/
publication/alternatives-to-incarceration-in-california/.
See, e.g., Miss. Code § 99-37-19 (2019); See Miss. Code Ann. § 477-37(5) (“If the court revokes probation for one or more technical
violations, the court shall impose a period of imprisonment to be
served in either a technical violation center or a restitution center.”); Fla. Admin. Code § 33-504.101(2)(a).
See, e.g., Shouse California Law Group, How to Get Work Release
Furlough in Lieu of Jail in California (Dec. 2, 2020), https://www.
shouselaw.com/ca/defense/process/sentencing/work-release-furlough/; Illinois Department of Corrections, Frequently Asked
Questions, https://www2.illinois.gov/idoc/aboutus/pages/faq.aspx#qst14; Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections,
Reentry Initiatives & Transitional Work Programs, https://
doc.louisiana.gov/imprisoned-person-programs-resources/
transition-reentry/.

280 Georgia Department of Corrections, Food & Farm Services Fact
Sheet (Jan. 2015), http://www.dcor.state.ga.us/sites/all/files/pdf/
Research/Fact_Sheets/Info_Sheets_Food_Services.pdf; Georgia
Department of Corrections, State Prisons, http://www.dcor.state.
ga.us/Divisions/Facilities/StatePrisons; Bonnie Mansfield,
Inmate Plantations, Write CSU (July 11, 2016).
281

Georgia Department of Corrections, Annual Report, Fiscal Year
2020 at 66, http://www.dcor.state.ga.us/sites/default/files/
sites/all/gdc/files/pdf/Research/Monthly/GDC%20FY2020%20
Annual%20Report.pdf; see also Georgia Correctional Industries,
Agribusiness, https://www.gci-ga.com/operations#section-fs.

282 Georgia Department of Corrections, Georgia Correctional
Industries: Food Services and Agribusiness, http://www.dcor.
state.ga.us/sites/default/files/Georgia%20Correctional%20
Industries_0.pdf.

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117

283 Georgia Department of Corrections, Food & Farm Services Fact
Sheet (Jan. 2015), http://www.dcor.state.ga.us/sites/all/files/pdf/
Research/Fact_Sheets/Info_Sheets_Food_Services.pdf.

293 Louisiana Department of Corrections, Demographic Dashboard,
Facility Breakout: LSP (Dec. 31, 2021), https://doc.louisiana.gov/
demographic-dashboard/.

284 Id.; Georgia Department of Corrections, Georgia Correctional
Industries: Food Services and Agribusiness, http://www.dcor.
state.ga.us/sites/default/files/Georgia%20Correctional%20
Industries_0.pdf.

294 Interview with Andrea Armstrong, Loyola University New Orleans,
College of Law Professor, in New Orleans, LA (Nov. 6, 2019) (on file
with authors) (interview concerning issues reported to Professor
Armstrong by incarcerated people).

285 California Prison Industry Authority, CALPIA Report to the
Legislature, FY 2020-21 (Feb. 2022) at 28, https://www.calpia.
ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/calpia/news/Reports_and_
Publications/Report%20To%20The%20Legislature%20FY%20
2020-21%20(APPROVED%2012-16-21)%20low-res.pdf.

295 Solitary Watch, ACLU of Louisiana, and the Jesuit Social Research
Institute/Loyola University New Orleans, Louisiana on Lockdown,
Solitary Watch (Jun. 2019) at 67, https://solitarywatch.org/
wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Louisiana-on-Lockdown-ReportJune-2019.pdf.

286 National Correctional Industries Association, Prison Industry
Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP) Certification & Cost
Accounting Center Listing: Q2 2021 Certification Listing Report
(Dec. 2, 2021) https://www.nationalcia.org/statistical-reports,
https://4c99dc08-46a7-4bd9-b990-48103d668bb3.filesusr.com/
ugd/569cf7_ef27cb77182443a69a2de109c9175110.pdf.

296 Id.

287

Oklahoma Department of Corrections, Agri-Services (Dec. 15, 2021),
https://oklahoma.gov/doc/organization/agri-services.html;
Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector, Department of Corrections,
Oklahoma Correctional Industries and Agricultural Services,
Performance Audit (Feb. 11, 2019), https://www.sai.ok.gov/
Search%20Reports/database/OCIWebFinal.pdf.

288 National Correctional Industries Association, Prison Industry
Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP) Certification &
Cost Accounting Center Listing: Q3 2021 Certification Listing
Report (March 2022), https://www.nationalcia.org/_files/ugd/569cf7_0ab8d011f21b4127b18d15c77d104f45.pdf.
289 Id.
290 See, e.g., Andrea Armstrong, Slavery Revisited in Penal Plantation
Labor, 35 Seattle U. L. Rev. 835 (2012); Georgia Department of
Corrections, Food & Farm Services Fact Sheet (Jan. 2015), http://
www.dcor.state.ga.us/sites/all/files/pdf/Research/Fact_Sheets/
Info_Sheets_Food_Services.pdf; Tatum Isaacs, Farmers Behind
Bars: A Critical Analysis of Prison Farm Labor in Kentucky and
Beyond, Kentucky J. of Equine, Agriculture & Natural Resources L.
(2017), https://uknowledge.uky.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1177&context=kjeanrl; Rob Goyanes, The Secret History
of Florida Prison Labor, New Tropic (Jan. 4, 2016), https://thenewtropic.com/prison-labor-florida/; Hannah O. Brown, Becca
Burton, and Lyndsey Gilpin, How Incarcerated People Powered the
University of Florida’s Agricultural Research Program, Southerly,
https://southerlymag.org/powered-by-prisons/.
291

See, e.g., Andrea Kelley, Arabella Saunders, and Marin Wolf,
From Plantation to Prison: How Oppression Led to High Rates of
Disease, Death for Black North Carolinians, North Carolina Health
News (Feb. 23, 2021), https://www.northcarolinahealthnews.
org/2021/02/23/from-plantation-to-prison-how-oppression-led-tohigh-rates-of-disease-death-for-black-north-carolinians/.

292 Andrea Armstrong, Slavery Revisited in Penal Plantation Labor,
35 Seattle U. L. Rev. 835, 874 (2012); La. Admin Code Tit.22,
§331(10).

297 Arkansas Division of Correction, Annual Report, Fiscal Year
2019 (2020) at 42, https://doc.arkansas.gov/wp-content/
uploads/2020/09/Division_of_Correction_FY19_Annual_
Report_BOC_Approval-5272020.pdf; Arkansas Department of
Corrections, An Overview of Arkansas Department of Correction’s
Agriculture Division & Explanation of Selected Audit Findings, Oct.
20, 2016, https://doc.arkansas.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/
Agriculture_Division_Overview_for_102016.pdf; Riley Kovalcheck,
The Modern Plantation: The Continuities of Convict-Leasing and an
Analysis of Arkansas Prison Systems, 7 CLA J. 96 (2019); Jeannie
Roberts, Prison Farms: A Growing Concern for Some Critics,
Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Feb. 16, 2016.
298 See, e.g., Lamar Moore, Arkansas Prisons’ Unpaid Labor Program
is Criminal, Prison Journalism Project (Feb. 22, 2022), https://
prisonjournalismproject.org/2022/02/22/arkansas-prisons-unpaid-labor-program-is-criminal/; Happy Stompingbear, Hoe Squad:
The Work That We Do, Prison Journalism Project (Oct. 11, 2020),
https://prisonjournalismproject.org/2020/10/11/hoe-squad-thework-that-we-do/; Molly Minta, Incarcerated, Infected and Ignored:
Inside the Cummins Prison Outbreak, Arkansas Times (June
18, 2020), https://arktimes.com/arkansas-blog/2020/06/18/
incarcerated-infected-and-ignored-inside-the-cummins-prison-outbreak; Rachel Aviv, Punishment by Pandemic, New Yorker (June
15, 2020), https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/06/22/
punishment-by-pandemic.
299 Arkansas Division of Correction, Annual Report, Fiscal Year
2019 (2020) at 16, 42, https://doc.arkansas.gov/wp-content/
uploads/2020/09/Division_of_Correction_FY19_Annual_Report_
BOC_Approval-5272020.pdf; Arkansas Division of Correction,
Annual Report, Fiscal Year 2018 (2019) at 15, 26, https://doc.
arkansas.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/ADC_FY18_Annual_
Report_BOC_Approval_12_20_2018_Edit_3-28-19.pdf.
300 Arkansas Department of Corrections, Cummins Unit, https://doc.
arkansas.gov/facilities/cummins-unit/; Arkansas Department of
Corrections, An Overview of Arkansas Department of Correction’s
Agriculture Division & Explanation of Selected Audit Findings, Oct.
20, 2016, https://doc.arkansas.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/
Agriculture_Division_Overview_for_102016.pdf; Jeannie Roberts,
Prison Farms: A Growing Concern for Some Critics, Arkansas
Democrat Gazette, Feb. 16, 2016.
301

Jobe et al. v. Urquart, 98 Ark. 525, 136 S.W. 663 (1911).

302 David M. Oshinsky, Worse Than Slavery: Parchman Farm and the
Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice (New York: Free Press, 1997) at 110;

118

ACLU Research Report

Innocence Project, The Lasting Legacy of Parchman Farm, the
Prison Modeled After a Slave Plantation (May 29, 2020), https://
innocenceproject.org/parchman-farm-prison-mississippi-history/.
303 Mississippi Department of Corrections, Monthly Fact Sheet
(Jan. 3, 2022), https://www.mdoc.ms.gov/Admin-Finance/
MonthlyFacts/2022-Fact%20Sheet%201-3-22.1%20(updated).pdf.
304 Mississippi Department of Corrections, State Prisons, Mississippi
State Penitentiary, https://www.mdoc.ms.gov/Institutions/Pages/
State-Prisons.aspx.
305 Mississippi Department of Corrections, Annual Report, Fiscal
Year 2020 at 12-13, https://www.mdoc.ms.gov/Admin-Finance/
Documents/2020%20Annual%20Report.pdf.
306 Vera Institute for Justice, Incarceration Trends in Mississippi,
https://www.vera.org/downloads/pdfdownloads/state-incarceration-trends-mississippi.pdf; Prison Policy Initiative, State Profiles:
Mississippi, https://www.prisonpolicy.org/profiles/MS.html;
FWD.us, Latest Data Shows Mississippi Now Ranked As Second
Highest Imprisoner in the Nation (Mar. 2, 2020), https://www.fwd.
us/news/latest-data-shows-mississippi-now-ranked-as-second-highest-imprisoner-in-the-nation/.
307

309 Andrea Kelley, Arabella Saunders, and Marin Wolf, From
Plantation to Prison: How Oppression Led to High Rates of Disease,
Death for Black North Carolinians, North Carolina Health
News (Feb. 23, 2021), https://www.northcarolinahealthnews.
org/2021/02/23/from-plantation-to-prison-how-oppression-led-tohigh-rates-of-disease-death-for-black-north-carolinians/.

311

Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Annual Review FY2020 at
59, https://www.tdcj.texas.gov/documents/Annual_Review_2020.
pdf.

313

Id.

314

State of Texas State Auditor, An Audit Report on Agribusiness at
the Department of Criminal Justice (March 2021), https://sao.texas.
gov/Reports/Main/21-016.pdf.

315

Id.

316

Asatar Bair, An Economic Analysis of Prison Labor in the United
States, PhD diss., University of Massachusetts Amherst (2004) at
194. See also Asatar Bair, Prison Labor in the United States: An
Economic Analysis (New York: Routledge, 2007).

317

According to the National Correctional Industries Association,
the value of saleable goods and services produced by incarcerated workers in prison industries programs nationwide totaled
$2,089,022,613 in 2021. Telephone interview with Wil Heslop,
interim executive director, National Correctional Industries
Association (NCIA), Nov. 18, 2021, citing 2021 NCIA Directory.

318

Asatar Bair, An Economic Analysis of Prison Labor in the United
States, PhD diss., University of Massachusetts Amherst (2004) at
194.

319

Eli Rosenberg, Louisiana Sheriff Argues against Releasing
Prisoners ‘you can work,’ Drawing Slavery Comparisons, Wash.
Post (Oct. 12, 2017), https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/
post-nation/wp/2017/10/12/louisiana-sheriff-argues-against-releasing-prisoners-you-can-work-drawing-slavery-comparisons/.

Monica Land, Inmates Harvest Fall Crops, Mississippi Link
(Jan. 4, 2012), https://themississippilink.com/2013/01/04/
inmates-harvest-fall-crops/.

308 North Carolina Department of Public Safety, Roanoke River
Correctional Institution, https://www.ncdps.gov/adult-corrections/prisons/prison-facilities/caledonia-correctional-institution;
North Carolina Department of Public Safety, North Carolina Prison
Inmates at Work, https://www.doc.state.nc.us/work/workover.
htm.

310

312

Shane Bauer, The Straight Line from Slavery to Private Prisons:
How Texas Turned Plantations Into Prisons, Lit Hub (Sept. 19,
2018), https://lithub.com/the-straight-line-from-slavery-to-privateprisons/; Paul M. Lucko, Prison System, Texas State Historical
Association (1976, updated Sept. 24, 2020), https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/prison-system. See also Molly Shah,
Texas’ Prison Plantation Model Was a Brutal Remnant of Slavery,
Real News Network (May 28, 2021), https://therealnews.com/
texas-prison-plantation-model-was-a-brutal-remnant-of-slavery;
Michael King, Grim History: Author Traces Texas Prison System
from its Roots in Plantation Slavery, Austin Chron. (Aug, 20, 2010),
https://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2010-08-20/1070701/;
Robert Perkinson, Texas Tough: The Rise of America’s Prison
Empire (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2010).
Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Manufacturing,
Agribusiness and Logistics Division, Texas Correctional Industries
Programs, Agribusiness, Land & Minerals, Transportation & Supply:
An Overview of Facilities and Operations Within the Division
(March 2020) at 12-16, https://www.tdcj.texas.gov/documents/
MAL_Overview.pdf.

320 Interview with Daniel Tapia, programs manager, First 72+ (Nov. 8,
2019) (on file with authors).
321

Joel Jackson trial transcript (on file with authors).

322 Interview with Kelly Savage, California Coalition for Women’s
Prisoners (Apr. 30, 2020) (on file with authors).
323 Beth Schwartzapfel, Taking Freedom: Modern-Day Slavery in
America’s Prison Workforce, Pac. Standard (May 7, 2018), https://
psmag.com/social-justice/taking-freedom-modern-day-slavery.
324 See, e.g., Fla. Stat. § 946.002; Ark. Stat. § 12-30-401; La. Rev. Stat.
§ 15:870.
325 U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Justice
Expenditures and Employment in the United States, 2017 (July 2021)
at 5-6, https://bjs.ojp.gov/sites/g/files/xyckuh236/files/media/
document/jeeus17.pdf; U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice
Statistics, Prisoners in 2020—Statistical Tables (Dec. 2021) at 7,
https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/pdf/p20st.pdf; Prison Policy
Initiative, Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2022, by Wendy
Sawyer and Peter Wagner (Mar. 14, 2022), https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2022.html.
326 Vera Institute of Justice, The Price of Prisons: Examining State
Spending Trends, 2010-2015 (May 2017) at 9, https://www.vera.
org/downloads/publications/the-price-of-prisons-2015-statespending-trends.pdf. See also John Pfaff, The Incalculable Costs of
Mass Incarceration, The Appeal (Sept. 20, 2018), https://theappeal.
org/the-incalculable-costs-of-mass-incarceration/; Prison Policy

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119

Initiative, Following the Money of Mass Incarceration (Feb. 25, 2017),
https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/money.html.
327

U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Justice
Expenditures and Employment in the United States, 2017 (July 2021)
at 8, https://bjs.ojp.gov/sites/g/files/xyckuh236/files/media/
document/jeeus17.pdf.

328 Id.
329 Id.
330 Asatar Bair, An Economic Analysis of Prison Labor in the United
States, PhD diss., University of Massachusetts Amherst (2004) at
194.
331

Interview with Bruce Reilly, deputy director, VOTE, in New
Orleans, LA, May 14, 2019 (on file with authors).

this-under-the-radar-supply-chain-routes-food-from-prisons-to-hospitals-food-banks-and-even-schools/.
342 Id.
343 Jon Swartz, Inmates vs. Outsourcing, USA Today (July 6, 2004),
https://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/economy/employment/2004-07-06-call-center_x.htm; Otak, Coffee Creek
Correctional Facility (2020), https://www.otak.com/about/projects/coffee-creek-correctional-facility/; Todd Clear, Michael Riesig,
and George Cole, American Corrections (Boston: Cengage Learning,
2019).
344 La. Rev. Stat. § 15:873.
345 Arkansas Department of Correction, Division of Correction,
Inmate Handbook¸ 6 (March 2020) https://doc.arkansas.gov/
wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Inmate_Handbook_Updated_
March_2020_Final_02_28_2020_pdf.pdf

332 Id.
333 Maintenance Mechanic Correctional Facility Jobs, Indeed (2020),
https://www.indeed.com/q-Maintenance-Mechanic-Correctional-Facility-jobs.html.

346 Federal Prison Industries, Inc. (UNICOR), Fiscal Year 2021 Annual
Management Report (Nov. 12, 2021), https://www.unicor.gov/
publications/reports/FY2021_AnnualMgmtReport.pdf. .
347

334 See Michigan FOIA Response 05.02.110A (on file with authors).
335 Written survey response by Latashia M. Millender, incarcerated at
Centralia Correctional Center, IL (on file with authors).
336 Many states require their state agencies and entities to purchase
goods and services from their correctional industry. See, e.g., Wis.
Stat. § 303.01 Va. Code Ann. § 53.1-59; see also Ill. Comp. Stat.
5/3-12-7 (2010). See also Illinois Correctional Industries, FAQ:
Frequently Asked Questions (2015) http://www.icicatalog.illinois.
gov/documents/faq.pdf).
337

Illinois Correctional Industries, 2020 Annual Report (2021), http://
www.icicatalog.illinois.gov/Documents/AnnualReport/FY20%20
Annual%20Report_.pdf.

UNICOR, Discover UNICOR, https://unicor.gov/publications/
corporate/CATMC4201_C.pdf; UNICOR, About UNICOR, https://
www.unicor.gov/about.aspx.

348 Safia Samee Ali, Federal Prison-Owned ‘Factories With
Fences’ Facing Increased Scrutiny, NBC News (Sept. 4,
2016), https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/
federal-prison-owned-factories-fences-face-scrutiny-n639791.
349 Federal Prison Industries, Inc. (UNICOR), Fiscal Year 2021
Annual Management Report (Nov. 12, 2021), https://www.unicor.
gov/publications/reports/FY2021_AnnualMgmtReport.pdf.
See also UNICOR, FY 2021 FPI Sales by 4-Digit FSC Code and
Customer (2021), https://www.unicor.gov/publications/reports/
FY21AnnualSalesReport.pdf (reporting that net sales totaled
nearly $543 million).

338 California Prison Industry Authority (CALPIA), CALPIA Report
to the Legislature, FY 2020-21 (Feb. 2022) at 28, https://www.
calpia.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/calpia/news/Reports_and_
Publications/Report%20To%20The%20Legislature%20FY%20
2020-21%20(APPROVED%2012-16-21)%20low-res.pdf.

350 UNICOR, Frequently Asked Questions, https://www.unicor.gov/
faq_general.aspx.

339 National Correctional Industries Association, 2020 NCIA Directory
(Baltimore, MD: NCIA, 2020); data also reprinted in Maryland
Correctional Enterprises, Annual Report 2020 (2020) at 3, https://
www.mce.md.gov/Portals/0/PDF2020/Annual%20Report%20
2020_12_9.pdf.

352 UNICOR, Inbound/Outbound Call Center Solutions, https://www.
unicor.gov/category.aspx?idcategory=1429.

340 Jon Swartz, Inmates vs. Outsourcing, USA Today (July 6, 2004),
https://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/economy/employment/2004-07-06-call-center_x.htm; Otak, Coffee Creek
Correctional Facility (2020), https://www.otak.com/about/projects/coffee-creek-correctional-facility/; Todd Clear, Michael Riesig,
and George Cole, American Corrections (Boston: Cengage Learning,
2019).
341

120

H. Claire Brown, This Under-the-Radar Supply Chain Routes
Food from Prisons to Hospitals, Food Banks, and Even
Schools, The Counter (May 25, 2021), https://thecounter.org/

ACLU Research Report

351

UNICOR, Bringing Jobs Home: Investing in America, https://www.
unicor.gov/publications/corporate/CATC6300_C.pdf.

353 Erin Paige McGonigle, First Responders, Second Priority: Georgia’s
Inmate Firefighter Program and International Human Rights
Standards, 48 Georgia J. Intl. & Comp. L. 189 (Apr. 11, 2021),
https://digitalcommons.law.uga.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2471&context=gjicl; Leah Fleming, Georgia Felons Find
Purpose Fighting Fires, Georgia Public Broadcasting (July 14, 2016),
https://www.gpb.org/news/2016/09/14/georgia-felons-findpurpose-fighting-fires; Georgia Department of Corrections, Fire
Services Fact Sheet (2019).
354 Leighann Starkey and Jacalyn Goldzweig Panitz, forthcoming
report to be published by Legal Aid Society on behalf of the 13th
Forward Coalition, based on records provided by the New York
State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision
(DOCCS) in response to a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL)

request filed by the Legal Aid Society, https://www.legalaidnyc.
org/PrisonLaborReport2022.

370

Arizona Correctional Industries, Achieving Balance: 2020 Annual
Report (2021) at 21, https://aci.az.gov/sites/default/files/
ACI_AR_2020.pdf; Arizona Auditor General, Arizona Department
of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry, Capital Projects Funding
and Department Finances, Performance Audit (Oct. 2020) at 20-21,
https://www.azauditor.gov/sites/default/files/20-109_Report.pdf.

371

Id.

372

As of the second quarter of 2021 ending on June 30, 2021, 4,738
incarcerated workers were employed through PIECP. See,
National Correctional Industries Association, Prison Industry
Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP) Certification & Cost
Accounting Center Listing: Q2 2021 Certification Listing Report
(Dec. 2, 2021), https://www.nationalcia.org/statistical-reports,
https://4c99dc08-46a7-4bd9-b990-48103d668bb3.filesusr.com/
ugd/569cf7_ef27cb77182443a69a2de109c9175110.pdf.

373

See Bureau of Justice Assistance, Prison Industry Enhancement
Certification Program Brief (2002).

374

Julie Goodridge et al., Prison Labor in the United States: An Investor
Perspective, N. Star Asset Mgmt. 22 (2018), https://missioninvestors.org/sites/default/files/resources/Prison%20Labor%20in%20
the%20United%20States%20-%20An%20Investor%20Perspective.
pdf; NCIA, PIECP, Prison Labor, Prison Industries Violations,
PIECP Program Violations, http://prison-labor.50megs.com/
rich_text_1.html.

375

Bob Sloan, The Prison Industries Enhancement Certification
Program: Why Everyone Should be Concerned, Prison Legal News
(Mar. 5, 2010), https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2010/
mar/15/the-prison-industries-enhancement-certification-program-why-everyone-should-be-concerned/.

376

Id.

377

Id.

378

U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Prisoner’s Unions,
Inmate Militancy, and Correctional Policymaking, by Stephen
Woolpert, 42 Fed. Probation 40 (1978).

379

Jones v. N. Carolina Prisoners’ Lab. Union, Inc., 433 U.S. 119
(1977).

355 Id.
356 Id.
357

J. Carlee Purdum and Michelle Meyer, Prisoner Labor Throughout
the Life Cycle of Disasters, Risk, Hazards & Crisis in Public Policy
(May 12, 2020).

358 Id.
359 Interview with Montrell Carmouche, director of Operation
Restoration’s Safety and Freedom Fund, New Orleans, LA (June 22,
2021) (on file with authors).
360

361

Interview with Montrell Carmouche, director of Operation
Restoration’s Safety and Freedom Fund, New Orleans, LA (June 22,
2021) (on file with authors).
Colorado Department of Corrections, Private Sector Customers,
FOIA response document (on file with authors); Colorado
Correctional Industries, Annual Report 2020 (July 2020) at 4,
https://www.coloradoci.com/bin-pdf/annualReport/07_2020_annrep.pdf; Colorado Correctional Industries, Partner Companies,
https://www.coloradoci.com/bin-pdf/partnerCompanies.pdf.

362 Utah Department of Corrections (UCI), UCI Public Customer
Suppliers, FOIA response document (on file with authors) (also
listing customers).
363 H. Claire Brown, How Corporations Buy—and Sell—Food Made With
Prison Labor, The Counter (May 18, 2021), https://thecounter.
org/how-corporations-buy-and-sell-food-made-with-prison-labor/;
Colorado Department of Corrections, Private Sector Customers,
FOIA response document (on file with authors).
364 H. Claire Brown, How Corporations Buy—and Sell—Food Made With
Prison Labor, The Counter (May 18, 2021), https://thecounter.org/
how-corporations-buy-and-sell-food-made-with-prison-labor/.
365 Id.; Michael Sainato, Corporations Are Making
Millions of Dollars from US Prison Labor, Real
News (Jan. 5, 2022), https://therealnews.com/
corporations-are-making-millions-of-dollars-from-us-prison-labor.
366 Id.
367

Colorado Department of Corrections, Private Sector Customers,
FOIA response document (on file with authors).

368 Arizona Department of Corrections Rehabilitation and Reentry,
Corrections at a Glance, February 2022 (Mar. 8, 2022), https://
corrections.az.gov/sites/default/files/REPORTS/CAG/2022/
cagfeb-22.pdf; Arizona Correctional Industries, Achieving Balance:
2020 Annual Report (2021) at 21, https://aci.az.gov/sites/default/
files/ACI_AR_2020.pdf.
369 Pioneer Institute, Arizona Correctional Industries Partnering
with Private Sector Companies, (July 19, 2011), http://bgc.
pioneerinstitute.org/arizona-correctional-industries-partnering-with-private-sector-companies/.

380 Walmart, Standards for Suppliers (2021) https://corporate.
walmart.com/media-library/document/standards-for-suppliers-english/_proxyDocument?id=0000015c-e70f-d3b4-a57e-ff4f3f510000
381

Al Norman, Demanufacturing Wal-Mart: Profiting from Prison
Labor, Huffington Post (Feb. 2, 2013), https://www.huffpost.com/
entry/walmart-prison-labor_b_2224743.

382 Bob Sloan, More Businesses Victimized by Nevada Prison
Industries, Daily Kos (April 8, 2013), https://www.dailykos.com/
stories/2013/4/8/1200202/-More-Businesses-Victimized-by-Nevada-Prison-Industries; Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau,
Interim Finance Committee’s Committee on Industrial Programs
(Sept. 25, 2017) at 4-5, 8; Al Norman, Demanufacturing Wal-Mart:
Profiting from Prison Labor, Huffington Post (Feb. 2, 2013), https://
www.huffpost.com/entry/walmart-prison-labor_b_2224743.
383 Derek Gilna, Prison Labor Boosts Walmart’s Profits
Despite Pledge, Prison Legal News (Sept. 19, 2014)

Captive Labor

121

https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2014/sep/19/
prison-labor-boosts-wal-marts-profits-despite-pledge/.
384 Starbucks, Starbucks Zero Tolerance Policy on Prison Labor
(June 14, 2020), https://stories.starbucks.com/press/2020/
starbucks-zero-tolerance-policy-on-prison-labor/; Caroline Winter,
What Do Prisoners Make for Victoria’s Secret?, Mother Jones
(July 2008), https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2008/07/
what-do-prisoners-make-victorias-secret/; Erica C. Barnett,
Prison Coffee and Games: Starbucks and Nintendo Admit their
Contractor Uses Prison Labor, Prison Legal News (Mar. 15,
2002), https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2002/mar/15/
prison-coffee-and-games-starbucks-and-nintendo-admit-their-contractor-uses-prison-labor.

KMW, Koch, LaCrosse, LPF, Maico, Martin Machine &
Welding, Mill Creek, Moly, Osborne, Pioneer, PKM Steel, Polo,
Redbarn PIECP and Pet Products, Russell Stover, Seat King,
Skyline, Wifco, Wilkens, and Zephyr), https://www.doc.ks.gov/
private-industry-partners.
393 Eoin Higgins, Faced with Worker Shortage at Kansas Facility,
Russell Stover Turns to Prison Labor, The Flashpoint (Jun. 28,
2021), https://eoinhiggins.substack.com/p/faced-with-worker-shortage-at-kansas?s=r; Andrew Bahl, Kansas Department
of Corrections and Inmates at Odds Over Cause of Crash En
Route to Russell Stover, Topeka Capital-Journal (Mar. 17, 2022),
https://www.cjonline.com/story/news/state/2022/03/17/
kansas-department-corrections-prison-inmates-disagree-causework-release-bus-crash/7004379001/.

385 Id.
386 Corporate Accountability Lab, Private Companies Producing With
US Prison Labor in 2020: Prison Labor in the US, Part II (Aug.
5, 2020), https://corpaccountabilitylab.org/calblog/2020/8/5/
private-companies-producing-with-us-prison-labor-in-2020-prisonlabor-in-the-us-part-ii.
387

National Correctional Industries Association (NCIA), Our
Leadership, https://www.nationalcia.org/our-leadership.

388 See, Julie Goodridge et al., Prison Labor in the United States: An
Investor Perspective, Northstar Asset Management (Apr. 2018),
https://northstarasset.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/revMay2018_Prison-Labor-in-the-Supply-Chain.pdf.
389 Dickinson Frozen Foods, About Us, https://www.linkedin.com/
company/dickinson-frozen-foods; H. Claire Brown, This Under-theRadar Supply Chain Routes Food from Prisons to Hospitals, Food
Banks, and Even Schools, The Counter (May 25, 2021), https://
thecounter.org/this-under-the-radar-supply-chain-routes-foodfrom-prisons-to-hospitals-food-banks-and-even-schools/.
390 While the National Correctional Industries Association
Certification Listing Report does not name the contracting
company that produces party balloons, reporting from multiple
sources confirms the company contracting with Minnesota’s
correctional industries program, MINNCOR, is the balloon manufacturing company Anagram. See, e.g., Filiberto Nolasco Gomez,
Workday Exclusive: Major Shifts in Minnesota Prison Industries
Lead to Layoffs, WORKDAY MINNESOTA (Jan. 7, 2020), https://
workdayminnesota.org/workday-exclusive-major-shifts-in-minnesota-prison-industries-lead-to-layoffs/. See also National
Correctional Industries Association, Prison Industry Enhancement
Certification Program (PIECP) Certification & Cost Accounting
Center Listing: Q3 2021 Certification Listing Report (March 2022)
at 19, https://www.nationalcia.org/_files/ugd/569cf7_0ab8d011f21b4127b18d15c77d104f45.pdf.
391

395 Joseph Neff, North Carolina Prisoners Still Working in Chicken
Plants, Despite Coronavirus Fears, Marshall Project (Mar. 25,
2020), https://www.themarshallproject.org/2020/03/19/
north-carolina-prisoners-still-working-in-chicken-plants-despite-coronavirus-fears.
396 Michelle Liu and Anna Wolfe, How Mississippi’s
‘Supercharged Temp Agencies’ Provide Inmate Labor to
Employers, Mississippi Today (Jan. 9, 2020), https://mississippitoday.org/2020/01/09/restitution-labor/; Anna
Wolfe and Michelle Liu, Think Debtors Prisons Are a Thing
of the Past? Not in Mississippi, Marshall Project (Jan. 9,
2020), https://www.themarshallproject.org/2020/01/09/
think-debtors-prisons-are-a-thing-of-the-past-not-in-mississippi.
397

ACLU Research Report

Kevin Rashid Johnson, Prison Labor Is Modern Slavery. I’ve Been
Sent To Solitary For Speaking Out, The Guardian (Aug. 23, 2018),
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/23/
prisoner-speak-out-american-slave-labor-strike.

398 Id.
399 U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Survey of Prison
Inmates, United States, 2016. Inter-university Consortium for
Political and Social Research [distributor], (Sept. 2021), https://
doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR37692.v4. This figure is based on ACLU
analysis of the published raw survey data.
400

Written survey response by [Name withheld to preserve anonymity,
at survey respondent’s request], incarcerated at Hill Correctional
Center, IL (on file with authors).

401

See, e.g., Mikeska v. Collins, 900 F.2d 833, 837 (5th Cir. 1990)
(“Any unjustified refusal to follow the established work regime
is an invitation to sanctions.”). See also U.S. Dep’t of Justice,
Federal Bureau of Prisons, Inmate Work and Performance Pay, §
545.20 (Oct. 1, 2008), https://www.onlabor.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/5251_006.pdf.

402

For a state-by-state breakdown of “good time” credit policies, see
National Conference of State Legislatures, Good Time and Earned
Time Policies for State Prison Inmates (Jan. 2016), http://www.
kslegislature.org/li_2020/b2019_20/committees/ctte_h_corr_
juv_jus_1/documents/testimony/20200203_10.pdf. Notably, one
of the ways an incarcerated worker can lose “good time” credit

National Correctional Industries Association, Prison Industry
Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP) Certification &
Cost Accounting Center Listing: Q3 2021 Certification Listing
Report (March 2022), https://www.nationalcia.org/_files/ugd/569cf7_0ab8d011f21b4127b18d15c77d104f45.pdf.

392 Kansas Department of Corrections, Private Industry Employers
(March 2, 2022) (listing Aramark, BAC, Barkman Honey,
Cal-Maine, Creekstone Farm, Electrex, Great Plains, Heatron,
Henke, Hess, Huco, Husky Hogs, Impact Embroidery, Kansas
Protein Foods, KBK Industries, Kirby Cattle, Kirby Enterprises,

122

394 Lisa Herman, Inmate Workforce Program Generates Interest,
Norton Telegram (June 26, 2018), http://archives.etypeservices.
com/Norton1/Magazine225145/Publication/Magazine225145.pdf.

403

404

405

is through work stoppage. See Families Against Mandatory
Minimums, Frequently Asked Questions: Federal Good Time Credit,
https://famm.org/wp-content/uploads/faq-federal-good-timecredit.pdf.

415

Mo. Ann. Stat. § 217.337 (West 2020).

416

Florida Department of Corrections, Inmate Orientation Guide
Reception Center Processing (2016) at 8,

U.S. Const. amend. XIII (“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have
been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any
place subject to their jurisdiction”).

http://www.dc.state.fl.us/pub/files/inmateorientationhandbook.pdf.

See, e.g., United States v. Reynolds, 235 U.S. 133, 149 (1914) (“There
can be no doubt that the State has authority to impose involuntary
servitude as a punishment for crime”); Pollock v. Williams, 322 U.S.
4, 17 (1944) (“Forced labor has been sustained as a means of punishing crime”). See also Williams v. Henagan, 595 F.3d 610 (5th Cir.
2010); Murray v. Mississippi Department Of Corrections, 911 F.2d
1167 (5th Cir. 1990); Vanskike v. Peters, 974 F.2d 806, 809 (7th Cir.
1992) (“The Thirteenth Amendment excludes convicted criminals
from the prohibition of involuntary servitude, so prisoners may
be required to work... Further, there is no constitutional right to
compensation for such work; compensation for prison labor is “by
Grace Of The State””); Ruark v. Solano, 928 F.2d 947, 949–50 (10th
Cir. 1991) (“The thirteenth amendment’s restriction on involuntary
servitude does not apply to prisoners”), overruled on other grounds
by Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343 (1996); Omasta v. Wainwright, 696
F.2d 1304, 1305 (11th Cir. 1983) (holding “that where a prisoner
is incarcerated pursuant to a presumptively valid judgment and
commitment order issued by a court of competent jurisdiction and
is forced to work pursuant to prison regulations or state statutes,
the Thirteenth Amendment’s prohibition against involuntary
servitude is not implicated”); Draper v. Rhay, 315 F.2d 193, 197 (9th
Cir. 1963) (“Prison rules may require appellant to work but this
is not the sort of involuntary servitude which violates Thirteenth
Amendment rights…where a person is duly tried, convicted, sentenced and imprisoned for crime in accordance with law, no issue of
peonage or involuntary servitude arises”).
These states are Alabama, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Indiana,
Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota,
Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon,
Tennessee, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

417

Fla. Admin. Code R33-601.314,

https://www.law.umich.edu/special/policyclearinghouse/documents/
florida%20inmate%20code%20of%20conduct.pdf.
418

Oregon Constitution Art. 1 § 41; and Balletopedia Oregon
State Prison Inmates Required to Work Full Time, Measure 17
(1994), https://ballotpedia.org/Oregon_State_Prison_Inmates_
Required_to_Work_Full _Time,_Measure_17_(1994).

419

Jason Wilson, Inmate Details Alarming Conditions at Oregon
Prison Amid Coronavirus Pandemic, The Guardian (April 12, 2020);
Tess Riski, Oregon Hospitals Rely on Prison Labor to Do Their
Laundry During the Pandemic, Wilamette Week (April 22, 2020).

420

Tex. Pub. L. § 497.099(a); Texas Department of Criminal Justice,
Disciplinary Rules and Procedures for Offenders, Correctional
Institutions Division (Aug. 2019) at 23.

421

Tenn. Admin. Code § 41-2-120(a)

422

Written survey response by [Name withheld to preserve anonymity, at survey respondent’s request], incarcerated at Centralia
Correctional Center, IL (on file with authors).

423

Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, § 3044(f) (2018).

424

Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, §§ 3315(f)(5)(d) (2020), 3331(b) (2017).

425

Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, §§ 3315(g) (2020), 3044(5)-(6) (2018).

426

Interview with N’ashid Abdul Latif, former hospice worker in
California Medical Facility prison (Dec. 16, 2020). (on file with
authors).

406

Ga. Const. art. 1, § XXII (emphasis added).

427

Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, §§ 2281(c), 2402(c), 2422(c), 2432(c)

407

Ca. Const. art. 1, § VI

428

408

28 C.F.R. § 545.20(a)(2) (2020).

409

See U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Data
Collected Under the First Step Act, 2019, at 12 (Mar. 2020), https://
bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/pdf/dcfsa19.pdf.

410

Fallis v. United States, 263 F. Supp. 780 (M.D. Pa. 1967).

411

28 C.F.R. § 541.3 (2020).

Vera Institute of Justice, The Safe Alternatives to Segregation
Initiative: Findings and Recommendations for the Louisiana
Department of Public Safety and Corrections, and Progress
Toward Implementation (May 2019), https://storage.googleapis.
com/vera-web-assets/downloads/Publications/safe-alternatives-segregation-initiative-findings-recommendations/
legacy_downloads/safe-alternatives-segregation-initiative-findings-recommendations-ldps.pdf; Eli Cahan, Nick Chrastil,
Louisiana Policy Intended to Reform Solitary Confinement
Still Leaves People in Indefinite Lockdown, The Intercept
(Dec. 15, 2021), https://theintercept.com/2021/12/15/
solitary-confinement-reform-louisiana-dpsc-vera/.

412

28 C.F.R. § 541.3 (2020).
429

413

See 28 C.F.R. § 541.3 (2020).

Interview with Dolfinette Martin, housing director, Operation
Restoration, in New Orleans, LA (Nov. 8, 2019) (on file with
authors).

414

E.g., La. R.S. 15:832(A); Ca. Penal § 2700; Fla. Stat. § 946.002(1)
(A) (2019); Mo. Ann. Stat. § 217.337 (West 2020); Ga. Comp. R. &
Regs. 125-3-2.04(c) (2021); Wash. Admin. Code § 137-25-30 (2019);
N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. tit. 7, § 270.2(B)(5)(iii) (2020).

430

Interview with Montrell Carmouche, director of Operation
Restoration’s Safety and Freedom Fund, New Orleans, LA (Nov. 8,
2019) (on file with authors).

Captive Labor

123

431

Solitary Watch, ACLU of Louisiana, and the Jesuit Social Research
Institute/Loyola University New Orleans, Louisiana on Lockdown,
Solitary Watch (Jun. 2019) at 67, https://solitarywatch.org/
wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Louisiana-on-Lockdown-ReportJune-2019.pdf.

432

Id. at 12.

433

Interview with Kaleem Nazeem, board member, DecARcerate,
Jonesboro, Arkansas (June 12, 2022).

434

Administrative Directive 10.1: Inmate Assignment And Pay Plan, St.
of Conn. Dep’t of Corr., 4(a) (2015), https://portal.ct.gov/-/media/
doc/pdf/ad/ad1001pdf.pdf?la=en.

998 (10th Cir. 1991) (citing Ingram v. Papalia, 804 F.2d 595, 596
(10th Cir. 1986)); Adams v. James, 784 F.2d 1077, 1079 (11th Cir.
1986); Gibson v. McEvers, 631 F.2d 95, 98 (7th Cir. 1980); Altizer
v. Paderick, 569 F.2d 812, 812– 13 (4th Cir. 1978); Bryan v. Werner,
516 F.2d 233, 240 (3d Cir. 1975); see also Bd. of Regents of State
Colls. v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 572–78 (1972). See also Wallace v.
Robinson, 940 F.2d 243, 246-247 (7th Cir. 1991).
447

Interview with James “JC” Cavitt, Housing and Outreach
Coordinator at Project Rebound, Long Beach, CA (June 18, 2021)
(on file with authors).

448

Michael Gibson-Light, The Prison as a Market: How Penal Labor
Systems Reproduce Inequality, PhD diss., University of Arizona at
128 (2019) (on file with authors).

Interview with CALPIA firefighter (Dec. 18, 2020) (on file with
authors).

449

Id. at 138.

436

Id.

450

437

Interview with N’ashid Abdul Latif, former hospice worker in
California Medical Facility prison (Dec. 16, 2020). (on file with
authors).

Courtney A. Crittenden, Barbara A. Koons-Witt and Robert J.
Kaminski, Being Assigned Work in Prison: Do Gender and Race
Matter?, Feminist Criminology 1-23 (Sept. 2016), https://www.
researchgate.net/publication/308104933_Being_Assigned_Work_
in_Prison_Do_Gender_and_Race_Matter.

438

See, e.g., Interview with Blanca Ruiz-Thompson, program director,
Reentry Relief Project, California (Jun. 16, 2020) (on file with
authors); Interview with Dolfinette Martin, housing director,
Operation Restoration, in New Orleans, LA (Nov. 8, 2019) (on file
with authors).

451

Id.

452

Interview with Dolfinette Martin, housing director, Operation
Restoration, in New Orleans, LA (Nov. 8, 2019) (on file with
authors).

439

Interview with Romarilyn Ralston, program director, Project
Rebound, California (April 28, 2020) (on file with authors).

453

Id.

454
440

The Uncounted Workforce, NPR: Planet Money (Jun. 29, 2020),
https://www.npr.org/transcripts/884989263.

Written survey response by Ronni Curry, incarcerated at Centralia
Correctional Center, IL (on file with authors).

455
441

Written survey response by [Name withheld to preserve anonymity, at survey respondent’s request], incarcerated at Decatur
Correctional Center, IL (on file with authors).

Written survey response by Jesus Duran, incarcerated at Centralia
Correctional Center, IL (on file with authors).

456

Written survey response by [Name withheld to preserve anonymity,
at survey respondent’s request], incarcerated at Western Illinois
Correctional Center, IL (on file with authors).

457

Michael Gibson-Light, The Prison as a Market: How Penal Labor
Systems Reproduce Inequality, PhD diss., University of Arizona at
123 (2019) (on file with authors).

458

Written survey response by [Name withheld to preserve anonymity, at survey respondent’s request], incarcerated at Shawanee
Correctional Center, IL (on file with authors).

459

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to state and
local correctional settings. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act
applies to federal prisons as well as virtually all state and local jails
and prisons. See 42 U.S.C. § 12132; 29 U.S.C. § 794 (Section 504).

460

See, e.g., Pa. Dep’t of Corr. v. Yeskey, 524 U.S. 206, 213 (1998);
Montez v. Romer, 32 F. Supp. 2d 1235, 1237 (D. Colo. 1999) (noting
that prisoners argue that they were excluded from employment programs because of their disabilities, including mobility impairments,
diabetes, hearing impairments, and vision impairments); Love v.
Westville Corr. Ctr., 103 F.3d 558, 560 (7th Cir. 1996) (upholding
the decision that a quadriplegic prisoner’s rights under the ADA
had been violated when he was denied access to “work programs”);
Jaros v. Illinois Dep’t of Corr., 684 F.3d 667 (7th Cir. 2012) (finding
that a prisoner who walked with a cane state claims under the

435

442

Solitary Watch, ACLU of Louisiana, and the Jesuit Social Research
Institute/Loyola University New Orleans, Louisiana on Lockdown,
Solitary Watch (Jun. 2019) at 67, https://solitarywatch.org/
wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Louisiana-on-Lockdown-ReportJune-2019.pdf.

443

Interview with Kelly Savage-Rodriguez, California Coalition for
Women Prisoners (Apr. 30. 2020) (on file with authors).

444

See, e.g., Miss. Code § 99-37-19 (2019); Fla. Admin. Code §
33-504.101(2)(a). See also Anna Wolfe and Michelle Liu, Want
out of Jail? First You Have to Take a Fast-Food Job, Miss. Today:
Working Toward Freedom (Jan. 9, 2020), https://mississippitoday.
org/2020/01/09/restitution/; Fla. Admin. Code § 33-504.101(5)
(c-d), (6)(b).

445

See, e.g., Anna Wolfe and Michelle Liu, How Mississippi’s
‘Supercharged Temp Agencies’ Provide Inmate Labor to Employers,
Miss. Today: Working Toward Freedom (Jan. 9, 2020), https://mississippitoday.org/2020/01/09/restitution-labor.

446

Andrea Armstrong, Beyond the 13th Amendment-Captive Labor, 82
Ohio St. L.J. 1039 (2021), Loyola University New Orleans College
of Law Research Paper No. 2022-03 (Mar. 18, 2022), https://ssrn.
com/abstract=4061202, citing Williams v. Meese, 926 F.2d 994,

124

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Section 504 for exclusion from a work release program, on the
basis of his disability); Austin v. Pennsylvania Dep’t of Corrections,
876 F. Supp. 1437 (E.D. Penn. Jan. 17, 1995) (finding in approving
settlement agreement that there is no evidence that prisoner
food workers with HIV constitute direct threat). See also Raines
v. Florida, 983 F.Supp 1362, 1372-74 (N.D. Fla. 1997) (holding that
a prison policy withholding benefits of the Incentive Gain Time
program from prisoners who are physically or mentally unable to
perform work may be an ADA violation and rejecting the prison’s
defense that allowing prisoners with disabilities into the work
portion of the Incentive Gain Time program would fundamentally
alter the program’s incentives).
461

Interview with Jacalyn Goldzweig Panitz, Paralegal Casehandler,
Employment Law Unit, Legal Aid Society, and Lisa Zucker, Senior
Attorney for Legislative Affairs, New York Civil Liberties Union,
May 10, 2022.

462

Jackie Goldzweig Panitz and Rosemary Rivera, Opinion: New
York Should Reject a Return to Private Prison Labor, City
Limits (Mar. 10, 2022), https://citylimits.org/2022/03/10/
opinion-new-york-should-reject-a-return-to-private-prison-labor/.

463

Interview with [Name withheld to preserve anonymity, at interviewee’s request], formerly incarcerated at Albion Correctional
Facility, June 2, 2022.

464

Written survey response by Jesus Duran, incarcerated at Centralia
Correctional Center, IL; [Name withheld to preserve anonymity, at
survey respondent’s request], incarcerated at Danville, IL; Written
survey response by [Name withheld to preserve anonymity, at survey respondent’s request], incarcerated at Danville Correctional
Center, IL (all on file with authors).

465

Telephone interview with [Name withheld to preserve anonymity,
at interviewee’s request], incarcerated at Centralia Correctional
Center, IL, survey conducted by phone (Dec. 4, 2020) (on file with
authors).

466

Written survey response by [Name withheld to preserve anonymity, at survey respondent’s request], incarcerated at CA Medical
Facility, interview on December 18, 2020 (on file with authors).

467

Id.

468

Written survey response by [Name withheld to preserve anonymity, at survey respondent’s request], incarcerated at IL Danville
Correctional Center (on file with authors).

469

Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Frequently Asked
Questions, https://www.tdcj.texas.gov/faq/cid.html (stating
“Inmates are not paid for their work”); Chris Tomlinson, Prison
Slave Labor Isn’t Just a Problem in China. It Happens in Texas, Too,
Houston Chronicle (Aug. 27, 2021) https://www.houstonchronicle.
com/business/columnists/tomlinson/article/Tomlinson-Prisonslave-labor-persists-in-Texas-16414140.php; Editorial: Unpaid
Prison Labor is Wrong. End it Now, Houston Chronicle (Dec. 3,
2020), https://www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/editorials/article/Editorial-Unpaid-prison-labor-is-wrong-End-it-15771108.php;
Vicky Camarillo, ‘The Penal System Today is Slavery: Lawmakers
Finally Start to Talk About Unpaid Labor in Texas Prisons, Texas
Observer (May 10, 2019), https://www.texasobserver.org/
penal-system-slavery-unpaid-labor-texas/.

470

Texas Legislative Budget Board, Fiscal Note, 86th Legislative
Regular Session, In Re: HB3720 (Apr. 17, 2019) https://
capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/86R/fiscalnotes/pdf/HB03720I.pdf#navpanes=0; Vicky Camarillo, ‘The Penal System Today is Slavery:
Lawmakers Finally Start to Talk About Unpaid Labor in Texas
Prisons, Texas Observer (May 10, 2019), https://www.texasobserver.org/penal-system-slavery-unpaid-labor-texas/.

471

National Correctional Industries Association (NCIA), 2020 NCIA
Directory (Baltimore, MD: NCIA, 2020).

472

South Carolina Department of Corrections, Inmate Pay, § 3
(2014), http://www.doc.sc.gov/policy/ADM-15-13.htm.pdf;
South Carolina Department of Corrections Letter to South
Carolina Legislative Oversight Committee, Inmate Work:
Earning and Supervision Details, Policies, and Statutes (May
24, 2019), https://www.scstatehouse.gov/CommitteeInfo/
HouseLegislativeOversightCommittee/AgencyWebpages/
Corrections/Statistics%20by%20type%20of%20inmate%20
work%20-%20qualifications,%20number%20working,%20costs,%20
etc..pdf.

473

Maine Department of Corrections, FOIA response document (on
file with authors).

474

See, e.g., Nevada Senate Committee on Judiciary, Meeting Minutes,
SB 140 (Mar. 10, 2021), https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/
REL/81st2021/Meeting/8982?p=2008982; Nevada Department of
Corrections, Initial Orientation Handout (Oct. 2010) at 21, https://
www.law.umich.edu/special/policyclearinghouse/Documents/
Nevada%20Initial%20Orientation%20Handout.pdf; Nevada
Department of Corrections, Department Organization (stating
“Work assignments provide the basic labor to meets the institutions’
operational needs. Inmates are employed as clerks, cooks, boiler
operators, porters, and in numerous other assignments... The
inmates earn credit towards parole and discharge…and some earn
small wages.”), https://doc.nv.gov/About/Human_Resources/
HR_Organization/.

475

La. Admin. Code Tit. 22, § I-331(D); La. R.S. 15:571(B(1)(a).

476

See Appendix B for the wages paid to incarcerated workers in each
state and in federal prisons, and see Appendix C for calculated
average and hourly wages paid to incarcerated workers.

477

Connecticut Department of Correction, Administrative Directive:
Inmate Assignment and Pay Plan, Directive 10.1 (effective Oct. 22,
2015), https://portal.ct.gov/-/media/DOC/Pdf/Ad/ad1001pdf.pdf.
See also Connecticut Office of Legislative Research, Inmate Work
Activities, by Jennifer Brady and Amanda Gordon (2011), https://
www.cga.ct.gov/2011/rpt/2011-r-0191.htm.

478

Kansas Department of Corrections, Internal Management Policy
& Procedure: Resident Work Assignments, Policy 10-109A (effective
Jan. 21, 2022), https://www.doc.ks.gov/kdoc-policies/AdultIMPP/
chapter-10/10-109a-resident-work-assignments.pdf/view; Kansas
Department of Corrections, Internal Management Policies and
Procedures: Programs and Services: Offender Work Assignments,
at 2 (2016), https://www.doc.ks.gov/kdoc-policies/AdultIMPP/
chapter-10/10-109a/view.

479

Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, § 3041.2; California Department of
Corrections and Rehabilitation, Operations Manual (Jan. 1, 2022)
at 351-352, https://www.cdcr.ca.gov/regulations/wp-content/uploads/sites/171/2022/03/CDCR-DOM_2022.pdf.

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480

Illinois Department of Corrections, Administrative Directive
05.03.103, Monetary Compensation for Assignments for Individuals
in Custody (July 1, 2021), https://www2.illinois.gov/idoc/aboutus/Policies/Policies/Operations/503103%20Monetary%20
Compensation%20for%20Assignments%20for%20Individuals%20
in%20Custody.pdf.

481

Kate Lisa, Campaign Launched to Raise Pay, Secure Labor
Rights for Prisoners, Hudson Valley 360 (Jan. 17, 2022),
https://www.hudsonvalley360.com/news/nystate/campaign-launched-to-raise-pay-secure-labor-rights-for-prisoners/
article_46dc9d5a-cbfe-5240-abfd-ddf3d0457da8.html; Joseph
Spector, Big Raise? Prison Inmates Could Get a Major Boost
in their Wages in New York, Democrat & Chron. (Feb. 7, 2019),
https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/politics/
albany/2019/02/07/big-raise-prison-inmates-could-get-majorboost-minimum-wages-new-york/2799895002/.

482

South Dakota Department of Corrections, Inmate Work
Assignments and Pay, Policy 1.5.A.1 (effective Jan. 4, 2019), at
4 (Revision Log), https://doc.sd.gov/documents/Inmate%20
Work%20Assignments%20and%20Pay142019.pdf.

483

Virginia Department of Corrections, Offender Work Programs,
Operating Procedure 841.2, (effective July 1, 2020) at 6,
https://vadoc.virginia.gov/files/operating-procedures/800/
vadoc-op-841-2.pdf; Harvey Yoder, Va. Faces a Worsening
Prison Crisis, News Leader (June 1, 2015), https://www.
newsleader.com/story/opinion/columnists/2015/06/01/
va-faces-worsening-prison-crisis/28256983/.

484

Vermont Department of Corrections, Inmate Wage Plan, Policy 394
(effective May 30, 1988), https://doc.vermont.gov/sites/correct/
files/documents/policy/correctional/394-Inmate-Wage-Plan.pdf.

485

Illinois Department of Corrections, Administrative Directive
05.03.103, Monetary Compensation for Assignments for Individuals
in Custody (July 1, 2021); Illinois Department of Corrections,
Administrative Directive 05.03.103A, Monetary Compensation for
Inmate Assignments (May 1, 1992, amended July 1, 2010).

486

Written survey response by [Name withheld to preserve anonymity, at survey respondent’s request], incarcerated at Danville
Correctional Center, IL (on file with authors).

See Timothy M. Hall, Coverage, Under Fair Labor Standards
Act (FLSA) (29 U.S.C.A. § 201 et seq.), of Prisoners Working for
Private Individuals or Entities Other Than Prisons, 110 A.L.R.
Fed. 839, 2a (2018); Matthew J. Lang, The Search for a Workable
Standard for When Fair Labor Standards Act Coverage Should be
Extended to Prisoner Workers, 5 U. Pa. J. Bus. L. 19 (2002); Renee
Elaine Henson, Picking Cotton for Pennies: An Exploration into
the Law’s Modern Endorsement of a Free-Prison Workforce, 2 Bus.
Entrepreneurship & Tax L. Rev. 193, 200–01 (2018).
493

See, e.g., Ndambi v. CoreCivic, Inc., 990 F.3d 369 (4th Cir. 2021)
(affirming the district court’s dismissal of an action brought by ICE
detainees to recover wages under the FLSA for work performed
while detained, on the grounds that the FLSA does not apply to custodial settings); Harker v. State Use. Indus., 990 F.2d 131 (4th Cir.
1993) (rejecting the prisoners’ claim by distinguishing the employee-employer relationship covered in the FLSA from the “custodial
relationship” of incarcerated workers); Sanders v. Hayden, 544 F.3d
812, 814 (7th Cir. 2008) (noting that the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 7th, 8th, 11th,
and D.C. Circuits had all held that prisoners are not covered by
the FLSA); Bennett v. Frank, 395 F.3d 409, 409–10 (7th Cir. 2005);
Villarreal v. Woodham, 113 F.3d 202, 205–07 (11th Cir. 1997);
Gambetta v. Prison Rehab. Indus. & Diversified Enters., 112 F.3d
1119, 1124–25 (11th Cir. 1997); Henthorn v. Dep’t of Navy, 29 F.3d
682, 687 (D.C. Cir. 1994); Harker, 990 F.2d at 133–36; Vanskike, 974
F.2d at 807–12; Gilbreath v. Cutter Biological Inc., 931 F.2d 1320,
1324–27 (9th Cir. 1991). The Fifth circuit has developed a more
nuanced posture, using the “economic reality” from the Supreme
Court test in Goldberg v. Whitaker House Coop. to determine
whether incarcerated workers are under an employer-employee
relationship. See, e.g., Henagan, 595 F.3d at 620; Watson v. Graves,
909 F.2d 1549, 1553-56 (5th Cir. 1990) (holding that prisoners
who had not been sentenced to hard labor and were employed by a
private firm while on work release were “employees” of the private
employer for the purposes of FLSA coverage). The “economic reality” test originates in the Supreme Court’s holding that “economic
reality” should govern the determination of employer status under
the FLSA. Goldberg v. Whitaker House Coop., 366 U.S. 28, 33, 81 S.
Ct. 933, 936 (1961).

494

Data is calculated from the three-state survey conducted by the
ACLU and the Global Human Rights Clinic.

495

Prison Policy Initiative, How Much Do Incarcerated People Earn
In Each State?, by Wendy Sawyer (Apr. 10, 2017), https://www.
prisonpolicy.org/blog/2017/04/10/wages/.

487

Id.

488

Written survey response by [Name withheld to preserve anonymity, at survey respondent’s request], incarcerated at Danville
Correctional Center, IL (on file with authors).

496

West Virginia Division of Corrections, Policy Directive 111.06,
Financial Responsibility Program for Inmates (Nov. 1, 2014), FOIA
response document (on file with authors).

489

Jeffrey Hilburn, Dirty Jobs: Grime Is No Bad Thing, The Angolite
(March/April 2017) at 12.

497

490

Id.

491

Serra v. Lappin, 600 F.3d 1191 (9th Cir. 2010).

492

The exclusion of prison workers is not excplitly provided for in the
FLSA but has developed from judicial precedent. There has been
no specific guidance from Congress or the Supreme Court as to
whether the language of FLSA is meant to exclude incarcerated
workers from its protections. However, most appellate courts
have ruled that prison workers are excluded from the definition
of “employee” in that Act, thereby excluding them from protection.

Nevada Senate Bill 22, https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/
REL//81st2021/Bill/7197/Overview; Nev. Rev. S. 209.247;
Sean Golonka, Inmate Advocates and Family Members Seek to
Lower Deductions from Offender Accounts, Nevada Independent
(Mar. 4, 2021), https://thenevadaindependent.com/article/
inmate-advocates-and-family-members-seek-to-lower-deductions-from-offender-accounts; Dana Gentry, Cannizzaro Challenges
Prison Director on Inmate Money Seizures, Nevada Current (Mar.
4, 2021), https://www.nevadacurrent.com/blog/cannizzaro-challenges-prison-director-on-inmate-money-seizures/; Michael Lyle,
NDOC Hasn’t Implemented Law Capping Deductions on Inmate
Bank Accounts, Nevada Current (July 12, 2021), https://www.
nevadacurrent.com/2021/07/12/ndoc-hasnt-implemented-lawcapping-deductions-on-inmate-bank-accounts/.

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498

Michael Lyle, Prison System’s Approach to Inmates’
Money Bewilders Legislators, Nevada Current (May 20,
2021), https://www.nevadacurrent.com/2021/05/20/
prison-systems-approach-to-inmates-money-bewilders-legislators/.

499

Filiberto Nolasco Gomez, An Update on Prison Labor in Minnesota,
Workday Minnesota (Jan. 5, 2022), https://workdayminnesota.
org/an-update-on-prison-labor-in-minnesota/.

500 Over a one-year period from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021, deductions from the wages of workers in the PIECP program totaled
$22,545,080, of which $13,631,910 was paid to room and board. Id.
501

https://www.nationalcia.org/statistical-reports, https://
df1d6e07-2d3a-49dd-bb43-170ddf635f64.usrfiles.com/
ugd/df1d6e_581cb12b96244d80bf38ed972e18fef6.pdf;
NCIA, PIECP Certification & Cost Accounting Center
Listing for the Quarter Ending September 30, 2020 (2020),
https://www.nationalcia.org/statistical-reports, https://
df1d6e07-2d3a-49dd-bb43-170ddf635f64.usrfiles.com/ugd/df1d6e_
e2b3759067374286b6578b24ea6ae87a.pdf.
512

Fla. Stat. § 946.522-3 (“The trust fund shall consist of moneys
authorized to be deducted pursuant to 18 U.S.C. s. 1761(c) and the
applicable federal guidelines, to be appropriated by the Legislature,
and moneys deposited by the corporation authorized under this
part to manage and operate correctional work programs. The
appropriated funds shall be used by the corporation for purposes of
construction or renovation of its facilities or for the expansion or establishment of correctional work programs as described in this part
or for prison industries enhancement (PIE) programs as authorized
under s. 946.523.”).

513

Nev. Rev. S. 209.463, 209.4841, 209.192. Nevada
SB 140, Exhibit, Introductory Presentation by Senator
Dina Neal (Mar. 10, 2021), https://www.leg.state.
nv.us/App/NELIS/REL/81st2021/ExhibitDocument/
OpenExhibitDocument?exhibitId=48392&fileDownload
Name=SB140_Introductory%20Presentation_Senator%20
Dina%20Neal.pdf.

514

I.R.C. §§ 3121(b)(6)(A), 3121(b)(7)(F)(ii), 3121(u)(3), 3121
(u)(2)(B)(ii)(II).

515

Work performed while incarcerated does not earn toward benefits
for two reasons. First, it is excluded from the Federal Insurance
Contributions Act (FICA) statute defining covered employment.
See Federal Insurance Contributions Act, I.R.C. § 3121(b)(6)(A), §
3121(b)(7)(F)(ii), § 3121(u)(3), (u)(2)(B)(ii)(II). Second, even when
this work may constitute covered employment (as in the case of
some PIECP jobs, the only category of work not excluded from the
statute), most incarcerated workers “do not earn sufficient income
per quarter to surpass the statutory thresholds.” Stephanie Hunter
McMahon, Inmates May Work, But Don’t Tell Social Security, 72
South Carolina L. Rev. 757, 773 (2021); Social Security Act of 1935,
42 U.S.C. §§ 410(a)(6)(A), 418(c)(6)(B).

516

Stephanie Hunter McMahon, Inmates May Work, But Don’t Tell
Social Security, 72 South Carolina L. Rev. 757, 759-760 (2021).

517

The work of incarcerated people working for PIECP is generally,
but not always, subject to the Federal Insurance Contributions Act
(FICA), the payroll tax that finances Social Security, disability
benefits, and Medicare. § 3121(b)(7)(C)(i); U.S. Social Security
Administration, Program Operations Manual System, https://
secure.ssa.gov/apps 10/poms.nsf/lnx/0301901560; 20 C.F.R. §
404.1007(a) (2021).

518

26 U.S.C. § 32(c)(2)(B)(iv); § 24(d)(1)(B)(i) (carving out from
the earnings that earn towards the EITC and CTC any “amount
received for services provided by an individual while the individual
is an inmate at a penal institution”). See also Stephanie Hunter
McMahon, Prison Work is Taxing and Should Be Taxed, manuscript
in preparation, 2022 (on file with authors).

519

Rogers v. Comm’r, T.C. Memo. 2004-245; Wilson v. Comm’r, T.C.
Memo. 2001-139; Taylor v. Comm’r, T.C. Memo. 1998-401; Skaggs
v. Comm’r, 148 T.C. No. 15 (2017) (cited in Stephanie Hunter

Thomas W. Petersik, Tapan K. Nayak & M. Katie Foreman,
Identifying Beneficiaries of Pie Inmate Incomes, Geo. U. Ctr. for
Econ. Res., xxii, 5 (2003), https://www.criminallegalnews.org/
media/publications/gwu_center_for_economic_research_re_identifying_beneficiaries_of_pie_inmate_incomes_jul_31_2003.pdf.

502 National Correctional Industries Association, PIECP
Final Guidelines (1999), https://www.nationalcia.org/
piecp-final-guideline.
503 28 C.F.R § 345.33.
504 U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Work Program
for Inmates – FPI, at 16 (2017), https://www.bop.gov/policy/progstat/8120_003.pdf.
505 28 C.F.R. § 545.11(a) (2020).
506 U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Program
Statement: Financial Responsibility Program, Inmate (2000),
https://www.bop.gov/policy/progstat/5380_008.pdf; U.S. Dep’t
of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Program Statement: Cost
of Incarceration Fee (COIF) (1999), https://www.bop.gov/policy/
progstat/5380_006.pdf.
507 Interview with Syrita Steib, co-founder and executive director,
Operation Restoration, New Orleans (Nov. 8, 2019) (on file with
authors).
508 U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Program
Statement: Financial Responsibility Program, Inmate (2000),
https://www.bop.gov/policy/progstat/5380_008.pdf.
509 18 U.S.C. § 1761(c)(2).
510

511

Nationally, incarcerated workers employed in the PIECP
program earned $10,034,501 in gross wages in Q1 of 2021 and
$11,689,205 in Q2 of 2021, of which $5,947,107 and $6,884,581
was deducted respectively. National Correctional Industries
Association (NCIA), PIECP Certification & Cost Accounting
Center Listing for the Quarter Ending June 30, 2021 (Dec.
2, 2021), https://www.nationalcia.org/statistical-reports,
https://4c99dc08-46a7-4bd9-b990-48103d668bb3.filesusr.com/ugd/569cf7_7722ec64545745f780ef9e63e75e7482.pdf; NCIA, PIECP
Certification & Cost Accounting Center Listing for the Quarter
Ending March 31, 2021 (2021), https://www.nationalcia.org/statistical-reports, https://df1d6e07-2d3a-49dd-bb43-170ddf635f64.
usrfiles.com/ugd/df1d6e_e0d06d60f81e41cab23b5ec50294401b.
pdf.
Id.; NCIA, PIECP Certification & Cost Accounting Center
Listing for the Quarter Ending December 31, 2020 (2021),

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McMahon, Prison Work is Taxing and Should Be Taxed, manuscript
in preparation, 2022).
520 26 U.S.C. § 3306(c)(21). See also National Employment
Law Project, Radical Inequality, Records, and Recovery
(Oct. 2020), https://s27147.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/
FAQ-Recovery-and-Records-2020-10-20.pdf; Isabelle Holt,
The Case for Unemployment Insurance for Incarcerated
Workers, On Labor (Mar. 23, 2022), https://onlabor.org/
the-case-for-unemployment-insurance-for-incarcerated-workers/.
521

Paul Egan, Inmate Who Led Prison Sewage Cleanup Says He
Now Has Hepatitis C, Detroit Free Press (June 3, 2017), https://
www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2017/06/04/
hepatitis-c-inmate-glen-lilly/362663001/.

522 Id.
523 Michigan’s OSHA investigated the reports in response to the initial
claim filed by a Corrections Department special activities director
at Parnall Correctional Facility where Glen Lilly is incarcerated. Id.
524 The vast majority of incarcerated workers labor within correctional
institutions operated by state and local governments, which are not
considered “employers” under OSHA. See 29 U.S.C. § 652(5)-(6)
(“(5) The term “employer” means a person engaged in a business
affecting commerce who has employees, but does not include the
United States (not including the United States Postal Service) or
any State or political subdivision of a State. (6) The term “employee”
means an employee of an employer who is employed in a business of
his employer which affects commerce.”). See also U.S Department
of Labor, OSHA, Standard Interpretations, Clarification on
whether an employer with multiple facilities needs a separate
written ECP for each facility, 1910.1030; 1960 (2011), https://
www.osha.gov/laws-regs/standardinterpretations/2011-12-13
(“Federal OSHA does not cover state or local government-operated
prisons.”). See also OSHA, Standard Interpretations, OSHA Does
Not Have Jurisdiction Over State Employees or Inmates, 1975.5
(1992), https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/standardinterpretations/1992-12-16-1 (“The definition of an ‘employer’ under Section
3(5) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act specifically excludes
a State or any political subdivision of a State from coverage under
the OSHA Act. Therefore, OSHA does not have jurisdiction over
the State of Colorado or its employees, including inmates in correctional institutions, either paid or nonpaid.”). However, according
to an OSHA instruction from 1995, “when inmates are required
to perform work similar to that outside of prisons, e.g., farming,
industries, machine operations, etc., the applicable protections
open to anyone else in similar situations should apply, including the
right to file a report of hazards with appropriate safety and health
officials.” See OSHA, Directives, Federal Agency Safety and Health
Programs With the Bureau of Prisons, U.S. Department of Justice,
Directive No.: FAP 01-00-002 (1995), https://www.osha.gov/
enforcement/directives/fap-01-00-002.
525 For example, Arizona Revised Statutes provide that in the employ
of the state, the term “employment” does not apply to services
performed by “inmate[s] of a custodial or penal institution.” See
Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 23-615 (B)(6). The Michigan Supreme Court
and Court of Appeals have held that there is no employer/employee
relationship between incarcerated individuals and the state since
the relationship is custodial and rehabilitative. See, Thompson v.
Bronk, 126 Mich 455, 456-457; 85 NW 1084 (1901); Cadeau v. Boys’
Vocational School, 359 Mich 598, 608-609; 103 NW2d 443 (1960);
Green v. Department of Corrections, 30 Mich App 648; 186 NW2d

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792; aff’d 386 Mich 459; 192 NW2d 491 (1971); Prisoners’ Labor
Union at Marquette v. Department of Corrections, 61 Mich App
328; 336; 232 NW2d 699; lv den 394 Mich 843 (1975). New York
state’s Department of Labor Public Employee Safety and Health
Field Operations Manual excludes incarcerated people from the
definition of public employees, even though the Consolidated Laws
of New York do not explicitly exclude them from the definition of
employee. New York Department of Labor, Public Employee Safety
and Health Field Operations Manual (2021), https://dol.ny.gov/
system/files/documents/2021/04/peshfom.pdf; N.Y. Lab. Law §
27-a (McKinney). Virginia Occupational Safety & Health (VOSH)
interpret the exclusion of incarcerated individuals as employees
under the Virginia Minimum Wage Act, § 40.1-28.9 to extend to
VOSH. However, it considers VOSH to be responsible for prisoners
employed by a public employer in a work-release program. Virginia
Department of Labor and Industry, Occupational Safety and
Health Program, Administrative Regulations Manual (Sep. 21,
2006), https://www.vaasphalt.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/
DOLI_Admin_Regs_Manual_hitching_ride_on_paver_issue.pdf.
In California, unlike other states, Cal/OSHA may make recommendations to the Department of Corrections to improve the safety
of the working conditions and work areas of state prisoners. Cal/
OSHA may also conduct hearings and adopts special orders, rules,
or regulations if the Department of Corrections fails to comply with
recommendations. Cal. Code Regs. tit. 8, § 344.46.
526 In the case of the Fair Labor Standards Act, there has been no
specific guidance from Congress or the Supreme Court as to
whether the language is meant to exclude incarcerated workers
from its protections. However, most appellate courts have ruled
that prison workers are excluded from the definition of “employee”
in that Act, thereby excluding them from protection. Lang MJ, The
Search for a Workable Standard for When Fair Labor Standards
Act Coverage Should be Extended to Prisoner Workers, 5 U. Pa.
J. Bus. L. 19 (2002); Renee Elaine Henson, Picking Cotton for
Pennies: An Exploration into the Law’s Modern Endorsement of
a Free-Prison Workforce, 2 Bus. Entrepreneurship & Tax L. Rev.
193, 200–01 (2018). See also Jackson Taylor Kirklin, Title VII
Protections for Inmates: A Model Approach for Safeguarding Civil
Rights in America’s Prisons, 111 Colum. L. Rev. 1048,1048–1089
(2011); Andre Montoya-Barthelemy, Letter to the Editor, The
Occupational Health of Prison Inmates: An Ignored Population
and an Opportunity, 61 J. of Occupational Envtl. Med. e74 (2019).
In the case of the National Labor Relations Act, which protects
the right of workers to engage in collective bargaining, there has
also been little Congressional or Supreme Court guidance as to
whether its protections include incarcerated workers. Given that
the protections only apply to those who meet the specific legal
definition of an “employee,” some lower courts have recognized
incarcerated workers employed in private companies through work
release as eligible for the NLRA’s protections. However, the vast
majority of incarcerated workers who labor within prisons and jails
are currently not covered given that federal and state governments,
when acting as employers, are excluded from the NLRA. Kara Goad,
Columbia University and Incarcerated Worker Labor Unions under
the National Labor Relations Act, 103 Cornell L. Rev. 177 (2017).
527 Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994) (internal quotation
marks and citations omitted).
528 See, e.g., Kulkay v. Roy, 847 F.3d 637, 643–645 (8th Cir. 2017).
529 Bratchett v. Braxton Envtl. Servs. Corp., 564 F. App’x 229, 232 (7th
Cir. 2014).

530 Data is calculated from the three-state survey conducted by the ACLU
and the Global Human Rights Clinic.
531

Spencer Woodman, California Blames Incarcerated Workers for Unsafe
Conditions and Amputations, The Intercept (Dec. 28, 2016).

532 Brown v. State, N.Y. Ct. Cl., Claim No. 125765, #2018-054-097 (Sept. 11,
2018).
533 Spencer Woodman, California Blames Incarcerated Workers for Unsafe
Conditions and Amputations, The Intercept (Dec. 28, 2016).
534 See, e.g., Kristi Graunke and Will Tucker, Why Incarcerated
People At Poultry Plants Deserve Better, Marshall Project (Aug. 13,
2018), https://www.themarshallproject.org/2018/08/13/why-incarcerated-poultry-workers-deserve-better; Elizabeth Whitman,
More Arizona Inmates Report Serious Injuries While Working at
Hickman’s Egg Farm, Phx. New Times (Oct. 4, 2019), https://www.
phoenixnewtimes.com/news/arizona-inmates-report-serious-injuries-hickmans-egg-farm-osha-11367976; Southern Policy Law Center,
The Kill Line, by Will Tucker (July 26, 2018), https://www.splcenter.
org/news/2018/07/26/kill-line.
535 Southern Policy Law Center, The Kill Line, by Will Tucker (July 26,
2018), https://www.splcenter.org/news/2018/07/26/kill-line.
536 See, e.g., Spencer Woodman, California Blames Incarcerated Workers
for Unsafe Conditions and Amputations, The Intercept (Dec. 28, 2016).
537 E.g., Rebecca Woolington, Forest Grove Fire Crews Rescue Prison
Inmate Injured in Tillamook State Forest, Oregonian (Oct. 12,
2011), https://www.oregonlive.com/forest-grove/2011/10/forest_grove_fire_crews_rescue.html; Tree-Cutting Error May Have
Caused Firefighter Death During Ferguson Fire, Associated Press (May
7, 2019), https://ktla.com/news/local-news/tree-cutting-error-mayhave-caused-firefighter-death-during-ferguson-fire-report/; Buckley
v. Barbour County, Ala., 624 F. Supp. 2d (M.D. Ala. 2008); Buckley v.
Barbour County, Ala., 2010 WL 1993066 (M.D. Ala. 2010).

543 Id.
544 Elizabeth Whitman, Barely Trained Inmate Loses Finger Working at
Hickman’s Egg Farm, Phx. New Times (Sep. 12, 2019), https://www.
phoenixnewtimes.com/news/inmates-maricopa-county-arizona-injured-labor-hickman-egg-farms-11354362. See also Mary Stinson v.
Hickmans Egg Ranch Inc. et al., Maricopa Cty. Sup. Ct. (Compl. filed
Aug. 22, 2019).
545 Josh Kelety, Hickman’s Family Farms’ Reliance on Prison Labor is
Starting to Yield Lots of Lawsuits, Phx. New Times (June 18, 2021),
https://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/news/hickmans-family-farmshit-with-new-lawsuits-over-inmate-worker-injuries-11563930. See
also Nathan Peshlakai v. Hickmans Egg Ranch Inc, Maricopa Cty.
Sup. Ct. (Compl. filed Nov. 19, 2019; Notice of Settlement filed Jan. 5,
2021); Noah Moore v. Hickmans Egg Ranch Inc, Maricopa Cty. Sup. Ct.
(Compl. filed Nov. 4, 2020; Notice of Settlement filed Nov. 3, 2021).
546 Written survey response by Ronni Curry, incarcerated at Centralia
Correctional Center, IL (on file with authors).
547

548 Written survey response by [Name withheld to preserve anonymity,
at survey respondent’s request], incarcerated at Pontiac Correctional
Center, IL (on file with authors).
549 U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA, Standard Interpretaions,
OSHA Does Not Have Jurisdiction Over State Employees or
Inmates, 1975.5 (1992), https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/
standardinterpretations/1992-12-16-1.
550 Number of cases was derived from searching on the OSHA database
by typing the name of each prison industry in all 50 states under the
“establishment” search box. See https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/establishment.html.
551

538 Joseph Serna and Brittany Mejia, Female Inmate Firefighter Dies
Following Injury in Malibu Blaze, L.A. Times (Feb. 26, 2016), https://
www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-female-inmate-firefighterdeath-20160226-story.html; Abby Vesoulis, Inmates Fighting California
Wildfires Are More Likely to Get Hurt, Records Show, Time (Nov. 16,
2018), https://time.com/5457637/inmate-firefighters-injuries-death/.
539 Kristi Graunke and Will Tucker, Why Incarcerated People At
Poultry Plants Deserve Better, Marshall Project (Aug. 13,
2018), https://www.themarshallproject.org/2018/08/13/
why-incarcerated-poultry-workers-deserve-better.
540 Josh Kelety, Hickman’s Family Farms’ Reliance on Prison Labor is
Starting to Yield Lots of Lawsuits, Phx. New Times (June 18, 2021),
https://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/news/hickmans-family-farmshit-with-new-lawsuits-over-inmate-worker-injuries-11563930.
541 Elizabeth Whitman, More Arizona Inmates Report Serious Injuries
While Working at Hickman’s Egg Farm, Phx. New Times (Oct. 4, 2019),
https://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/news/arizona-inmates-report-serious-injuries-hickmans-egg-farm-osha-11367976. See also Robert
McLaughlin v. Hickmans Egg Ranch Inc. et al., Maricopa Cty. Sup. Ct.
(Compl. filed May 7, 2020).
542 Id. See also Michael Gerhart v. Hickmans Egg Ranch Inc. et al.,
Maricopa Cty. Sup. Ct. (Compl. filed Sept. 25, 2019).

Written survey response by Latashia Millander, incarcerated at
Centralia Correctional Center, IL (on file with authors).

This is based on a search of OSHA’s complaint database, https://www.
osha.gov/pls/imis/establishment.html (In database, enter ‘California
Prison Industry Authority’ for Establishment, ‘California’ for State,
and set start date as far back as database will allow).

552 Kristi Graunke and Will Tucker, Why Incarcerated People At
Poultry Plants Deserve Better, Marshall Project (Aug. 13,
2018), https://www.themarshallproject.org/2018/08/13/
why-incarcerated-poultry-workers-deserve-better.
553 Tarver v. McLaughlin, M.D. Ga., Case No. 5:14-CV-214-MTT-MSH
(July 18, 2017); Georgia to Pay $550,000 to Convicted Felon For
Amputation, Assoc. Press (Sept. 23, 2017), https://apnews.com/
article/1a49ef1f1bfb4cd0b603fdcb41817287.
554 Robert Dalheim, Inmate Sues Colorado Sawmill After Grave Saw
Injury, Woodworking Network (Aug. 15, 2017), https://www.
woodworkingnetwork.com/news/woodworking-industry-news/
inmate-sues-colorado-sawmill-after-grave-saw-injury.
555 Id.
556 Liz Owens, I-TEAM INVESTIGATION: Poisoned Or Prison?,
WRDW-TV (Apr. 18, 2019), https://www.wrdw.com/content/news/
US-Battery--508773711.html; Liz Owens, I-TEAM INVESTIGATION:
OSHA Investigating Local Battery Maker, WRDW-TV (Apr. 18, 2019),

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https://www.wrdw.com/content/news/OSHA-investigating-localbattery-maker-498431392.html.
557

576

Kulkay v. Roy, 847 F.3d 637, 643–645 (8th Cir. 2017)

577

Kulkay v. Roy, 847 F.3d 637, 643–645 (8th Cir. 2017). The standard
of proof imposed by the court was “deliberate indifference to a
substantial risk of serious harm” rather than mere negligence. In
this case, the plaintiff was not able to present proof of “deliberate
indifference” because his case was dismissed before discovery could
take place.

578

Southern Policy Law Center, The Kill Line, by Will Tucker (July
26, 2018), https://www.splcenter.org/news/2018/07/26/kill-line;
Kristi Graunke and Will Tucker, Southern Poverty Law Center
Examines Hazards for Incarcerated Workers, Marshall Project
(Aug. 13, 2018), https://www.themarshallproject.org/2018/08/13/
why-incarcerated-poultry-workers-deserve-better.

579

Id.

U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Office of the Inspector General (OIG), A
Review of Federal Prison Industries’ Electronic-Waste Recycling
Program (2010), https://oig.justice.gov/reports/BOP/o1010.pdf.

558 Id. at xii.
559 Id.
560

Id.

561

Id. at xiii.

562 Brian Edwards and Jacob Margolis, California’s Firefighters
Keep Getting Injured While Training, And Some Have Died, LAist
(Sept. 21, 2021), https://laist.com/news/climate-environment/
california-cal-firefighters-training-injuries-deaths.

580 Id.

563 Michael Barajas, Death of Dog Trainer Highlights Strenuous Heat
and Working Conditions at Texas Prisons, Texas Observer (July 2,
2019), https://www.texasobserver.org/death-of-dog-trainer-highlights-strenuous-heat-and-working-conditions-inside-texas-prisons/.

581

564 Interview with Wayne Thomas, New Orleans, LA, (Nov. 8, 2019)
(on file with authors); Weather History Baton Rouge – January
2019, U.S. Climate Data, https://www.usclimatedata.com/climate/
baton-rouge/louisiana/united-states/usla0033/2019/1.

583 Id.

565 Interview with Hakeen Sukkar, New Orleans, LA, (Nov. 8, 2019) (on
file with authors).

585 Buckley v. Barbour County, Ala., 624 F. Supp. 2d (M.D. Ala. 2008);
Buckley v. Barbour County, Ala., 2010 WL 1993066 (M.D. Ala. 2010).

566 Interview with Hakeen Sakur, New Orleans, LA, (Nov. 8, 2019) (on
file with authors); Interview with Wayne Thomas, New Orleans, LA,
(Nov. 8, 2019) (on file with authors).

586 Buckley v. Barbour County, Ala., 624 F. Supp. 2d (M.D. Ala. 2008).

567 Interview with Hakeen Sakur, New Orleans, LA, (Nov. 8, 2019) (on
file with authors).

588 Interview with Blanca Ruiz-Thompson, program director, Reentry
Relief Project, California (Jun. 16, 2020) (on file with authors).

568 Id.

589 Id.

569 Interview with Wayne Thomas, New Orleans, LA, (Nov. 8, 2019) (on
file with authors).

590 Id.

582 Id. (Though prisoners aren’t employees for the purposes of OSHA,
OSHA conducts inspections.)

584 Southern Policy Law Center, The Kill Line, by Will Tucker (July 26,
2018), https://www.splcenter.org/news/2018/07/26/kill-line.

587 Rhodes v. Michigan, 10 F. 4th 665 (6th Cir. 2021).

591
570

571

572

Written survey response by [Name withheld to preserve anonymity, at survey respondent’s request], incarcerated at Menard
Corrections Center, IL (on file with authors).
Written survey response by [Name withheld to preserve anonymity, at survey respondent’s request], incarcerated at Stateville
Correctional Center, IL (on file with authors).
Written survey response by [Name withheld to preserve anonymity, at survey respondent’s request], incarcerated at Lincoln
Correctional Center in IL (on file with authors).

573

Data is calculated from the three-state survey conducted by the
ACLU and the Global Human Rights Clinic.

574

Jackson v. Birkey, No. 1:14-cv-01108-MMM, 2019 WL 2305135 (C.D.
Ill. May 30, 2019).

575

Trial Tr. Vol. 1 at 100, Jackson v. Birkey, No. 1:14-cv-01108-MMM,
2019 WL 2305135 (C.D. Ill. May 30, 2019).

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Id.

Written survey response by Latashia M. Millender, incarcerated at
Centralia Correctional Center, IL (on file with authors).

592 Written survey response by Bedriago Harper, incarcerated at
Pontiac Correctional Center, IL (on file with authors).
593 Written survey response by [Name withheld to preserve anonymity, at survey respondent’s request], incarcerated at Pontiac
Correctional Center, IL (on file with authors).
594 Michael Gibson-Light, The Prison as Market: How Penal Labor
Systems Reproduce Inequality, PhD diss., University of Arizona at
57 (2019). It is not uncommon for residents of restitution centers,
like incarcerated individuals required to participate in other prison
work programs, to endure a strip search on return to the facility
at the end of their workday. See, e.g., Anna Wolfe and Michelle
Liu, Want out of Jail? First You Have to Take a Fast-Food Job, Miss.
Today: Working Toward Freedom (Jan. 9, 2020), https://mississippitoday.org/2020/01/09/restitution/.

595 Survey response by [Name withheld to preserve anonymity, at
survey respondent’s request], incarcerated at Western Illinois
Correctional Center, IL (on file with authors).
596 Interview with Andrea Armstrong, Professor of Law at Loyola
College of Law, in New Orleans, LA, (Apr. 15, 2019) (on file with
authors) (interview concerning issues reported to Professor
Armstrong by incarcerated people).

609 Shannon Heffernan, From Roaches To Medical Emergencies, Illinois
Inmates Say ‘There’s Nobody That We Can Really Go To For Help’,
WBEZ, NPR (Dec. 2, 2020), https://www.wbez.org/stories/
from-roaches-to-medical-emergencies-illinois-inmates-say-theresnobody-that-we-can-really-go-to-for-help/160ef42c-e728-4e5d-990bf584242205df.
610

Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, § 3487(a)(1).

611

Cyrus Dunham, “A Living Hell” Dispatches From a California
Prison Amid the Climate and Coronavirus Crises, The Intercept
(Nov. 22, 2020), https://theintercept.com/2020/11/22/
california-women-prison-heat-climate-covid/.

612

Shannon Heffernan, From Roaches To Medical Emergencies,
Illinois Inmates Say ‘There’s Nobody That We Can Really Go To For
Help’, WBEZ NPR (Dec. 2, 2020), https://www.wbez.org/stories/
from-roaches-to-medical-emergencies-illinois-inmates-say-theresnobody-that-we-can-really-go-to-for-help/160ef42c-e728-4e5d-990bf584242205df.

600 Written survey response by Jesus Duran, incarcerated in Centralia,
IL (on file with authors).

613

Id.

601

614

Id.

615

Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, Evaluation of
the Inmate Grievance System, by Vincent M. Nathan, at 25 (Feb. 13,
2001).

603 Written survey response by [Name withheld to preserve anonymity,
at survey respondent’s request], incarcerated at Calipatria State
Prison, CA (on file with authors).

616

James E. Robertson, “One of the Dirty Secrets of American
Corrections”: Retaliation, Surplus Power, and Whistleblowing
Inmates, 42 U. Mich. J.L. Reform 611 (2009).

604 Human Rights Watch, No Equal Justice: The Prison Litigation
Reform Act in the United States (June 16, 2009), https://
www.hrw.org/report/2009/06/16/no-equal-justice/
prison-litigation-reform-act-united-states.

617

Interview with Blanca Ruiz-Thompson, program director, Reentry
Relief Project, California (Jun. 16, 2020) (on file with authors)

618

ACLU, Know Your Rights, The Prison Litigation Reform Act
(PLRA), https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/images/
asset_upload_file79_25805.pdf. The only exception to this rule
is if the incarcerated person is at risk of suffering serious and
imminent physical injury. The imminence is evaluated at the time
the prisoner attempts to file the new lawsuit, not at the time that the
incident that gave rise to the lawsuit occurred. See Abdul-Akbar v.
McKelvie, 239 F.3d 307 (3d Cir. 2001) (en banc).

619

Vidlak v. Cox, 786 F. App’x 62 (7th Cir. 2019).

597 Id..
598 Interview with Robert Jones, co-founder, Free-Dem Foundations,
New Orleans (Nov. 6, 2019) (on file with authors).
599 Solitary Watch, ACLU of Louisiana, and the Jesuit Social Research
Institute/Loyola University New Orleans, Louisiana on Lockdown,
Solitary Watch (Jun. 2019) at 102, https://solitarywatch.org/
wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Louisiana-on-Lockdown-ReportJune-2019.pdf.

Interview with [Name withheld to preserve anonymity, at interviewee’s request], wife of a CALPIA firefighter (Dec. 17, 2020).

602 Written survey response by Ronni Curry, incarcerated at Centralia
Correctional Center, IL (on file with authors)

605 42 U.S.C. 1997(e); See also Summary, Prison Litigation Reform
Act of 1995, S. 866, 104th Cong. (1995); Human Rights Watch,
No Equal Justice: The Prison Litigation Reform Act in the United
States (June 16, 2009), https://www.hrw.org/report/2009/06/16/
no-equal-justice/prison-litigation-reform-act-united-states.
606 See e.g., Uptown People’s Law Center, Inmate Grievance Procedure
Guide, https://www.ilnd.uscourts.gov/_assets/_documents/_
forms/_paveyhearing/IDOC%20Grievance%20Proc.%20summary.
pdf.
607 Georgia Department of Corrections, Standard Operating
Procedures, Georgia Statewide Grievance Procedure, Policy 227.02.
See also, e.g., Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 118 (2006) (Stevens, J.,
dissenting) (noting that grievance filing deadlines “are generally no
more than 15 days, and … in nine States, are between 2 and 5 days”).
608 Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, § 3482(b); Prison Law Office, How to File
a CDCR Administrative Grievance and Appeal (revised June
2020), https://prisonlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/
AdminAppeals-June-2020.pdf. This timeline does not apply to those
alleging sexial abuse. See Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, § 3084(c)(1) (no
time limit for filing grievance about staff sexual abuse) and Cal.
Code Regs. tit. 15, § 3084 (d)(1) (no time limit for filing grievance
about sexual abuse by another incarcerated person.).

620 Vidlak v. Cox, 786 F. App’x 62, 63 (7th Cir. 2019).
621

Martin v. Shelton, 319 F.3d 1048 (8th Cir. 2003). See also, e.g.,
Herman v. Holiday, 238 F.3d 660 (5th Cir. 2001) (claim of “physical
health problems” by prisoner exposed to asbestos does not specify
a physical injury which would permit recovery for emotional or
mental damages due to fear caused by increased risk of developing
asbestos-related disease).

622 UCLA Law, COVID Behind Bars Data Project, COVID-19 Jail/
Prison Confirmed Cases & Deaths, https://docs.google.com/
spreadsheets/d/1X6uJkXXS-O6eePLxw2e4JeRtM41uPZ2eRcOA_
HkPVTk/edit#gid=1641553906. See also COVID Prison Project,
https://covidprisonproject.com/.
623 Eddie Burkhalter et al., Incarcerated and Infected: How the
Virus Tore Through the U.S. Prison System, N.Y. Times (Aug. 11,
2020), https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/04/10/us/

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covid-prison-outbreak.html; Brendan Saloner, Kalind Parish, Julie
A. Ward, et al., COVID-19 Cases and Deaths in Federal and State
Prisons, JAMA (July 8, 2020), 324(6):602-603, https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2768249. See also Prison
Policy Initiative, States of Emergency: The Failure of Prison System
Responses to COVID-19 (Sept. 2021), https://www.prisonpolicy.
org/reports/states_of_emergency.html.
624 Rachel Ellis, Prison Labor in a Pandemic, 19 Contexts: Soc. for
the Pub. 66 (Dec. 14, 2020), https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/
full/10.1177/1536504220977950.
625 Brooklyn Defenders Services, Brooklyn Defender Services
Statement on Growing Outbreak of COVID-19 at Rikers Island
(Mar. 26, 2020), https://bds.org/latest/bds-statement-on-growingoutbreak-of-covid-19-at-rikers-island; Jan Ransom and Alan Feuer,
‘We’re Left for Dead’: Fears of Virus Catastrophe at Rikers Jail, N.Y.
Times (Mar. 30, 2020), https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/30/
nyregion/coronavirus-rikers-nyc-jail.html.
626 Rachel Ellis, Prison Labor in a Pandemic, 19 Contexts: Soc. for
the Pub. 66 (Dec. 14, 2020), https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/
full/10.1177/1536504220977950.
627 Rachel Ellis, Prison Labor in a Pandemic, 19 Contexts: Soc. for
the Pub. 66 (Dec. 14, 2020), https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/
full/10.1177/1536504220977950.
628 Marjorie Segule, Katherine LeMasters, Meghan Peterson et
al., Incarcerated Workers: Overlooked as Essential Workers, BMC
Public Health 22, 506 (Mar. 2022), https://doi.org/10.1186/
s12889-022-12886-7.
629 Tess Riski, Oregon Hospitals Rely on Prison Labor to Do Their
Laundry During the Pandemic, Willamette Week (Apr. 22, 2020),
https://www.wweek.com/news/2020/04/22/oregon-hospitalsrely-on-prison-labor-to-do-their-laundry-during-the-pandemic/;
Marissane Lewis-Thompson, Missouri Inmates Clean Hospital
Laundry, St. Louis Public Radio (Apr. 29, 2020), https://news.
stlpublicradio.org/health-science-environment/2020-04-29/
missouri-inmates-clean-hospital-laundry.
630 Alana Rocha, Incarcerated Texans Enlisted to Work in County
Morgue as COVID-19 Deaths Overwhelm El Paso, Texas Tribune
(Nov. 15, 2020), https://www.texastribune.org/2020/11/15/
coronavirus-texas-el-paso-inmates-morgue-deaths/.
631

Ryan Grim, Rikers Island Prisoners Are Being Offered
PPE and $6 an Hour to Dig Mass Graves, The Intercept
(Mar. 31, 2020), https://theintercept.com/2020/03/31/
rikers-island-coronavirus-mass-graves/.

632 Katie Way, Cuomo’s Prison Workers Say They’re Not Actually
Making Hand Sanitizer, Vice (Mar. 25, 2020), https://www.vice.
com/en_us/article/5dma4k/cuomos-prison-workers-say-theyre-not-actually-making-hand-sanitizer; Christopher Robbins, New
York State’s New Hand Sanitizer Is Made By Prisoners Paid An
Average 65 Cents An Hour, Gothamist (Mar. 9, 2020), https://
gothamist.com/news/new-york-states-new-hand-sanitizer-madeprisoners-paid-average-65-cents-hour.
633 Eliyahu Kamisher, Prison Labor is on the Frontlines of the Covid19 Pandemic, The Appeal (Oct. 5, 2020), https://theappeal.org/
prison-labor-is-on-the-frontlines-of-the-covid-19-pandemic/.

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634 Leighann Starkey and Jacalyn Goldzweig Panitz, forthcoming
report to be published by Legal Aid Society on behalf of the 13th
Forward Coalition, based on records provided by the New York
State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision
(DOCCS) in response to a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL)
request filed by the Legal Aid Society, https://www.legalaidnyc.
org/PrisonLaborReport2022; Glenn Thrush, Benjamin Smalls,
Jailhouse Lawyer and Prison Reformer, Dies at 72, N.Y. Times (May
31, 2020), https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/31/obituaries/benjamin-smalls-dead.html.
635 Kiera Feldman, California Kept Prison Factories Open. Inmates
Worked for Pennies an Hour as Covid-19 Spread. L.A. Times (Oct.
11, 2020), https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-10-11/
california-prison-factories-inmates-covid-19.
636 J. Carlee Purdum, States Are Putting Prisoners to Work
Manufacturing Coronavirus Supplies, Chicago Reporter (April 23,
2020), https://www.chicagoreporter.com/states-are-putting-prisoners-to-work-manufacturing-coronavirus-supplies/; Matt Miller,
Pa. Prison Inmates Working 12-Hour Shifts Producing Masks to
Shield Themselves, Guards from Coronavirus, PennLive Real-Time
News (Apr. 7, 2020), https://www.pennlive.com/news/2020/04/
pa-prison-inmates-working-12-hour-shifts-producing-masks-toshield-themselves-guards-from-coronavirus.html.
637 Chris Strohm, Federal Inmates to Make Cloth Virus
Masks for Prisoners, Bloomberg (Apr. 6, 2020), https://
www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-06/
federal-inmates-to-make-cloth-virus-masks-for-prisoners-guards.
638 Deanna Hackney and Eric Levenson, Texas Turns to Prison Labor
to Help Cover Face Mask Shortages, CNN (Mar. 23, 2020), https://
www.cnn.com/2020/03/22/us/texas-coronavirus-mask-trnd/
index.html.
639 Melissa Brown, Alabama Prison Guard Tests Positive for
Coronavirus, Inmates to Produce Masks, Montgomery Advertiser
(Apr. 2, 2020).
640 Casey Grove, Behind Bars, Alaska Inmates and Corrections
Staff Brace for Virus, NPR, Alaska Public Media (Mar.
25, 2020), https://www.alaskapublic.org/2020/03/25/
behind-bars-alaska-inmates-and-corrections-staff-brace-for-virus/.
641 Brent Corrado, Arizona Inmates Making Masks for Department
of Corrections Employees, Fox 10 Phoenix (Apr. 7, 2020),
https://www.fox10phoenix.com/news/arizona-inmates-making-masks-for-department-of-corrections-employees.
642 Nyssa Kruse, Arkansas Prison Inmates to Make Cloth
Masks, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (Apr. 2, 2020),
https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2020/apr/02/
watch-live-130-pm-governor-state-health-officials-/.
643 Elise Schmelzer, For Less Than $1 an Hour, Colorado Prisoners are
Producing Thousands of Masks a Day for Use in Prisons, Denver
Post (Apr. 21, 2020), https://www.denverpost.com/2020/04/21/
colorado-coronavirus-prisons-masks/.
644 WTNH, Connecticut Inmates Make Face Masks to Help with
Shortage Amid Coronavirus Outbreak (Mar. 26, 2020), https://www.
wtnh.com/news/health/coronavirus/connecticut-inmates-makeface-masks-to-help-with-shortage-amid-coronavirus-outbreak/.

645 WBOC, Delaware Inmates Make Masks to Fight Spread of
COVID-19 (Apr. 2, 2020), https://www.wboc.com/news/regional/
delaware/delaware-inmates-make-masks-to-fight-spread-ofcovid-19/article_86baefec-8e2a-5352-bdc9-5e667a87b773.html.
646 Florida Department of Corrections, Pride Inmates Increase
Production of Much-Needed Supplies (Mar. 30, 2020); Florida
Department of Corrections, FDC and PRIDE Begin Production of
Cloth Face Coverings (Apr. 11, 2020).
647

Terry Richards, State Prisoners Start Producing Masks
to Fight COVID-19, Valdosta Daily Times (Apr. 7, 2020),
https://www.valdostadailytimes.com/news/local_news/
state-prisoners-start-producing-masks-to-fight-covid-19/article_ad8fb1dc-7861-11ea-8253-c3aef826ec10.html.

648 Hawaii Department of Public Safety, Inmates Sew Cloth Masks for
Public Safety Department Staff and the Community (Apr. 10, 2020),
https://dps.hawaii.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/PSDRELEASE-Inmates-sewing-cloth-masks-4.10.20.pdf.
649 Trevor Fay, Inmates at IDOC Making Face Masks
for Themselves, Staff, CBS2 Idaho News (Apr. 9,
2020), https://idahonews.com/news/coronavirus/
inmates-at-idoc-making-face-masks-for-themselves-staff.

657

658 Inmates Making Thousands of Masks a Day to
Help Decrease Spread of COVID-19, WLOX (Apr.
29, 2020), https://www.wlbt.com/2020/04/29/
inmates-making-thousands-masks-day-help-decrease-spread-covid-/.
659 Gracee Mattiace, Department of Corrections Inmates Manufacture
Face Coverings Among Shortage, KHQA (Apr. 8, 2020), https://
khqa.com/news/state/department-of-corrections-inmates-manufacture-face-coverings-among-shortage; Phillip Sitter, Jefferson City
Correctional Center Continues to Make PPE, News Tribune (June
22, 2020), https://www.newstribune.com/news/2020/jun/22/
jefferson-city-correctional-center-continues-make-/.
660 Jodi Hausen, COVID-19 Case Confirmed at Bozeman Jail
as Attorney General Responds to Prisoner-Release Lawsuit,
Montana Free Press (Apr. 8, 2020), https://montanafreepress.
org/2020/04/08/covid-19-case-confirmed-at-bozeman-jail-as-attorney-general-responds-to-prisoner-release-lawsuit/.
661

650 Dan Carden, Indiana Prisoners Set to Begin Manufacturing
Masks, Gowns and Face Shields, NWI Times (Mar. 27, 2020)
https://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/indiana-prisoners-set-to-begin-manufacturing-masks-gowns-and-face/
article_a07a2a5c-ac37-55e6-a950-fc41fdb50e01.html.
651

Sarah Beckman, Iowa Prisoners Help Make Protective Gear,
Hand Sanitizer During COVID-19 Pandemic, We Are Iowa (Apr.
1, 2020), https://www.weareiowa.com/article/news/local/
iowa-prisoners-help-make-protective-gear-hand-sanitizer-duringcovid-19-pandemic/524-6e8bd9d4-b55d-4208-a13d-fe20afcb6310.

652 KSN News, Hutchinson Correctional Facility Inmates
Make 40,000 Masks and Medical Gowns (Apr. 21, 2020),
https://www.ksn.com/news/health/coronavirus/
coronavirus-in-kansas/hutchinson-correctional-facility-inmates-make-40-thousand-masks-and-medical-gowns/.
653 Charles Lussier, Louisiana Inmates are Using Donated Supplies
to Make Hand Sanitizer as Coronavirus Spreads, Advocate (Apr. 2,
2020), https://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/coronavirus/article_98081a40-74ea-11ea-b367-2774f5090b74.html.
654 Rose Velazquez, As COVID-19 Infiltrates Maryland’s Prisons,
Inmates Make Face Shields, Masks and Sanitizer, Salisbury Daily
Times (Apr. 4, 2020), https://www.delmarvanow.com/story/news/
local/maryland/2020/04/04/maryland-coronavirus-prison-inmates-make-face-shields-sanitizer-covid-19/2943180001/.
655 Deborah Becker, Mass. Prisoners Are Making Masks,
Gowns and Other Coronavirus Supplies, WBUR (Mar.
31, 2020), https://www.wbur.org/news/2020/03/31/
massachusetts-prisoners-making-supplies-coronavirus.
656 Danielle James, Prison Factories Turn Out Masks,
Gowns to Fight Coronavirus (Apr. 10, 2020), Capital
News Service, https://news.jrn.msu.edu/2020/04/
prison-factories-turn-out-masks-gowns-to-fight-coronavirus/.

Liz Sawyer, As Coronavirus Outbreak Spreads, Minnesota
Corrections Officials Look to Thin Prison Population, Star
Tribune (Apr. 3, 2020), https://www.startribune.com/
as-coronavirus-outbreak-spreads-minnesota-corrections-officials-look-to-thin-prison-population/569364742/.

Katelyn Newberg, Nevada Inmates Making Hand Sanitizer for
Health Workers, Police, Las Vegas Review-Journal (Apr. 11, 2020),
https://www.reviewjournal.com/news/politics-and-government/
nevada/nevada-inmates-making-hand-sanitizer-for-health-workers-police-2005063/.

662 Phaedra Haywood, State Wants to Buy More Sewing Machines to
Increase Mask Production by Inmates, Santa Fe New Mexican (Jul. 4,
2020), https://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/coronavirus/
state-wants-to-buy-more-sewing-machines-to-increase-mask-production-by-inmates/article_06153068-b57d-11ea-9d48-df09333a95f2.
html.
663 Thomas McDonald, The Coronavirus Poses a Significant Threat to
NC Jails and Prisons, Indy Week (Mr. 24, 2020), https://indyweek.
com/news/northcarolina/coronavirus-north-carolina-prisons/.
664 Julie Martin, Jamestown Inmates Make Masks and Gowns for North
Dakota Agencies, KFYR (Apr. 16, 2020), https://www.kfyrtv.com/
content/news/Jamestown-inmates-make-masks-and-gowns-forNorth-Dakota-agencies-569705521.html.
665 Ryan Haidet, Ohio Inmates Making Masks, Hospital Gowns &
Hand Sanitizer Amid Coronavirus Outbreak, WKYC (Mar. 31,
2020), https://www.wkyc.com/article/news/health/coronavirus/
ohio-inmates-making-masks-hospital-gowns-amid-coronavirus-outbreak/95-7cf2e934-6bb0-4ea1-8564-ce37a3557651.
666 Ali Meyer, Oklahoma Inmates Pitching In to Protect Medical
Caregivers During Coronavirus Crisis, KFOR (Apr. 2, 2020), https://
kfor.com/news/coronavirus/oklahoma-inmates-pitching-in-to-protect-medical-caregivers-during-coronavirus-crisis/.
667 Barney Lerten, Deer Ridge Prison Housing Unit Placed in Isolation
Over ‘Heath Concerns’, KTVZ (Apr. 6, 2020), https://ktvz.com/
news/jefferson-county/2020/04/06/deer-ridge-prison-housingunit-placed-in-isolation-over-health-concerns/.
668 Brent BonFleur, Inmates to Begin Production
of Hand Sanitizer, Masks and Gowns, KLKNTV

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133

(Mar. 23, 2020), https://www.klkntv.com/
inmates-to-begin-production-of-hand-sanitizer-masks-and-gowns/.
669 Rob Way, South Carolina Inmates Making Masks
for Heath Care Workers, WCSC (Apr. 3, 2020),
https://www.live5news.com/2020/04/03/
south-carolina-inmates-making-masks-health-care-workers/.
670 Danielle Ferguson, State Inmates Make Masks, Face Shields to Help
with Coronavirus Health Equipment Shortage, Argus Leader (Apr.
3, 2020), https://www.argusleader.com/story/news/2020/04/03/
inmates-make-protective-equipment-correctional-health-workers/2939944001/.
671

Keyris Manzanares, Virginia Prisoners Making Masks
to Keep Coronavirus Out of State Correctional Facilities,
WRIC (Mar. 23, 2020), https://www.wric.com/news/
virginia-news/virginia-prisoners-making-masks-to-keep-coronavirus-out-of-state-correctional-facilities/.

672 Mariah Timms, Tennessee Inmates Make Protective Masks, Gowns
for Health Care Workers During Coronavirus, Nashville Tennessean
(Mar. 29, 2020), https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/
local/2020/03/29/tn-inmates-make-masks-ppe-shortage-tennessee-covid-19/2928457001/.

681

682 Dave Biscobing, Inmates Catch COVID-19 at Hickman’s Egg Farm,
ABC15 (Jul. 1, 2020), https://www.abc15.com/news/local-news/
investigations/inmates-catch-covid-19-at-hickmans-egg-farm.
683 Id.
684 Cary Aspinwall, Keri Blakinger, and Joseph Neff, Federal Prison
Factories Kept Running as Coronavirus Spread, Marshall Project
(Apr. 10, 2020), https://www.themarshallproject.org/2020/04/10/
federal-prison-factories-kept-running-as-coronavirus-spread.
685 Jerry Iannelli, As Covid-19 Ravages Florida, Incarcerated People
Are Still Doing the State’s Hard Outdoor Labor, The Appeal (Apr. 9,
2020), https://theappeal.org/covid-19-prison-labor-florida/.
686 Coleen Slevin, Colorado Inmates Say State Is Violating Ban on
Forced Work, Associated Press (Feb. 16, 2022); Lora Korpar,
Inmates Say Colorado Prison Added Time to Sentences When They
Refused Work, Newsweek (Feb. 16, 2022).
687

673 Annie Knox, Team of Women Inmates Churning Out Cloth Masks
from Utah County Jail, Deseret News (Apr. 17, 2020), https://www.
ksl.com/article/46742642/team-of-women-inmates-churning-outcloth-masks-from-utah-county-jail.
674

Nyssa Kruse, Arkansas Prison Inmates to Make Cloth
Masks, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (Apr. 2, 2020), https://
www.arkansasonline.com/news/2020/apr/02/watchlive-130-pm-governor-state-health-officials-/; Arkansas
Department of Corrections Facebook post (Apr. 3, 2020),
https://www.facebook.com/ARDeptofCorrections/
photos/a.885985974784883/3045814952135297/?type=3&theater.

675 Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation & Reentry,
ADCRR Video: Announcing Production of Face Coverings Through
Arizona Correctional Industries, (Apr. 7, 2020), https://twitter.
com/AZCorrections/status/1247630453273583616.
676

Tess Riski, Oregon Hospitals Rely on Prison Labor to Do Their
Laundry During the Pandemic, Willamette Week (Apr. 22, 2020),
https://www.wweek.com/news/2020/04/22/oregon-hospitals-rely-on-prison-labor-to-do-their-laundry-during-the-pandemic/.

677

Id.

Richard Lilgerose and Harold Mortis v. Jared Polis, Dean Williams,
and Colorado Dep’t of Corrections, Compl. filed Feb. 15, 2022, Dist.
Ct. Denver Cty. Colorado, https://towardsjustice.org/wp-content/
uploads/2022/02/Amendment-A-litigation-Complaint-Stamped.
pdf.

688 Jerry Iannelli, Video Captures Poor Conditions At Louisiana Poultry
Plant Where Prisoners Are Sent To Work, The Appeal (May 28,
2020), https://theappeal.org/louisiana-poultry-plant-prison-labor/.
689 Id.
690 Brookings Institution, Work and Opportunity Before and After
Incarceration, by Adam Looney and Nicholas Turner (March 2018)
at 8, https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/
es_20180314_looneyincarceration_final.pdf.
691

See Prison Policy Initiative, The Company Store: A Deeper
Look at Prison Commissaries, by Stephen Raher (May 2018),
https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/commissary.html;
Brennan Center for Justice, Charging Inmates Perpetuates
Mass Incarceration, by Lauren-Brooke Eisen (2005), https://
www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/
charging-inmates-perpetuates-mass-incarceration.

692 Tim Requarth, How Private Equity Is Turning Public Prisons Into
Big Profits, The Nation (Apr. 30, 2019), https://www.thenation.
com/article/archive/prison-privatization-private-equity-hig/.

678 Id.
679 Marjorie Segule, Katherine LeMasters, Meghan Peterson et
al., Incarcerated Workers: Overlooked as Essential Workers, BMC
Public Health 22, 506 (Mar. 2022), https://doi.org/10.1186/
s12889-022-12886-7.
680 Id.; M. Maner, An Analysis of Interim Covid-19 Vaccination Plans
(2020), https://covidprisonproject.com/blog/data/data-analysis/
an-analysis-of-interim-covid-19-vaccination-plans/; Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 Vaccination Program
Interim Playbook for Jurisdiction Operations (2020), https://
www.cdc.gov/vaccines/imz-managers/downloads/Covid-19Vaccination-Program-Interim_Playbook.pdf.

134

Elizabeth Whitman, Hickman’s Family Farms to House Arizona
Inmate Workers During COVID-19 Pandemic, Phx. New Times (Mar.
25, 2020), https://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/news/hickmansegg-farm-to-house-its-prison-workers-during-pandemic-11460873.

ACLU Research Report

693 Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Who Pays: The True Costs
of Incarceration on Families (Sept. 2015), http://whopaysreport.
org/who-pays-full-report/; FWD.us and Cornell University, Every
Second: The Impact of the Incarceration Crisis on America’s
Families 10 (Dec. 2018), https://everysecond.fwd.us/downloads/
everysecond.fwd.us.pdf.
694 Data is calculated from the three-state survey conducted by the
ACLU and the Global Human Rights Clinic.

695 Taylor Elizabeth Eldridge, The Big Business of Prisoner Care
Packages, The Marshall Project (Dec. 21, 2017), https://www.
themarshallproject.org/2017/12/21/the-big-business-of-prisoner-care-packages. See also, e.g., Emily Brown and Rebecca
McCray, New York Prisons Set to Ban Most Packages from Family
and Friends, N.Y. Focus (May 12, 2022), https://www.nysfocus.
com/2022/05/12/prisons-ban-care-packages/.
696 Prison Policy Initiative, Following the Money of Mass Incarceration,
by Peter Wagner and Bernadette Rabuy (Jan. 25, 2017), https://
www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/money.html; Nicole Lewis
and Beatrix Lockwood, The Hidden Cost of Incarceration, The
Marshall Project (Dec. 17, 2019) https://www.themarshallproject.
org/2019/12/17/the-hidden-cost-of-incarceration.
697 Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Who Pays: The True Costs of
Incarceration on Families (Sept. 2015), http://whopaysreport.org/
who-pays-full-report/.

710

Id.

711

Stephen Raher, The Company Store and the Literally Captive
Market: Consumer Law in Prisons and Jails, 17 Hastings Race &
Poverty L.J. 3, 18 (2020); Prison Policy Initiative, The Company
Store: A Deeper Look At Prison Commissaries, by Stephen Raher
(May 2018), https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/commissary.
html.

712

National Institute for Jail Operations, Standard I01.03.02: Personal
Hygiene Items Issued To Inmates, https://Jailtraining.Org/
Standard-I-01-03-02-Personal-Hygiene-Items/982/.

713

Id.

714

Interview with Kelly Savage-Rodriguez, California Coalition For
Women’s Prisoners, via Zoom (Apr. 30, 2020) (on file with authors).

715

ACLU, The Unequal Price of Periods: Menstrual Equity in
the United States (2019), https://www.aclu.org/report/unequal-price-periods; Chandra Bozelko, I was a Prisoner. Access
to Menstrual Products Isn’t a Luxury. It’s a Basic Human Right,
Newsweek (Mar. 23, 2019), https://www.newsweek.com/
prison-menstruation-sanitary-products-human-rights-1375695.

716

Federal Bureau of Prisons, FCI Commissary List, https://www.bop.
gov/locations/institutions/dub/DUB_CommList.pdf.

717

National Consumer Law Center, Commercialized (In)Justice:
Consumer Abuses in the Bail and Corrections Industry, by Brian
Highsmith (Mar. 2019), https://www.nclc.org/images/pdf/criminal-justice/report-commercialized-injustice.pdf.

718

Stephen Raher, The Company Store and the Literally Captive
Market: Consumer Law in Prisons and Jails, 17 Hastings Race &
Poverty L.J. 3, 18 (2020).

719

Id.

720

Worth Rises, Connecting Families: Compelling Messaging For
Prison Phone Justice Campaigns, 3 (2019), https://static1.squarespace.com/static/58e127cb1b10e31ed45b20f4/t/5e70d1dc11a5
5a7c9554d936/1584452137156/worth+rises+-+connecting+families+%28mar.+2020%29+-+final.pdf.

721

Nationally, Global Tel Link (GTL) has contracts with 30 state and
federal departments of correction and provides services to over
2,300 correctional facilities. Over 1.6 million incarcerated people
in the United States use its services. GTL Leadership By The
Numbers, GTL, https://www.gtl.net/about-us/gtl_by_the_numbers/. Securus Technologies services over 3,400 institutions
and 1.2 million incarcerated people. Securus Technologies, About
Us, https://securustech.net/about-us/index.html. Incarcerated
people are charged fees for simply opening or operating a telephone
account. See Prison Policy Initiative, State of Phone Justice: Local
Jails, State Prisons And Private Phone Providers, by Peter Wagner
and Alexi Jones (Feb. 2019), https://www.prisonpolicy.org/
phones/state_of_phone_justice.html.

722

Prison Policy Initiative, State of Phone Justice: Local Jails, State
Prisons And Private Phone Providers, by Peter Wagner and Alexi
Jones (Feb. 2019), https://www.prisonpolicy.org/phones/state_of_
phone_justice.html.

723

Id.

698 Prison Policy Initiative, The Company Store: A Deeper Look at
Prison Commissaries, by Stephen Raher (May 2018), https://www.
prisonpolicy.org/reports/commissary.html.
699 Id.
700

701

Alysia Santo & Lisa Iaboni. What’s In A Prison Meal?, The
Marshall Project (Jul. 7, 2015), https://www.themarshallproject.
org/2015/07/07/what-s-in-a-prison-meal; Prison Policy Initiative,
Food for Thought: Prison Food is a Public Health Problem, by
Wendy Sawyer (Mar. 3, 2017) https://www.prisonpolicy.org/blog/
page/27/.
Alysia Santo & Lisa Iaboni. What’s In A Prison Meal?, The
Marshall Project (Jul. 7, 2015), https://www.themarshallproject.
org/2015/07/07/what-s-in-a-prison-meal.

702

Id.

703

Id.

704

Written survey response by [Name withheld to preserve anonymity,
at survey respondent’s request], incarcerated at Western Illinois
Correctional Center, IL (on file with authors).

705

Id.

706

David M. Reutter, Michigan’s New Prison Food Service Provider
Failing To Meet Contract Terms, Prison Legal News (Jan. 8, 2018),
https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2018/jan/8/michigansnew-prison-food-service-provider-failing-meet-contract-terms/.

707

Byrd v. Hobart, 761 Fed.Appx 621, 622 (7th Cir. 2019).

708

Prison Policy Initiative, The Company Store: A Deeper Look At
Prison Commissaries, by Stephen Raher (May 2018), https://www.
prisonpolicy.org/reports/commissary.html.

709

Madison L. Gates and Robert K. Bradford, The Impact of
Incarceration on Obesity: Are Prisoners with Chronic Diseases
Becoming Overweight and Obese during Their Confinement?, 2015
Journal of Obesity 6 (2015); Prison Policy Initiative, The Company
Store: A Deeper Look At Prison Commissaries, by Stephen Raher
(May 2018), https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/commissary.
html.

Captive Labor

135

724

725

Worth Rises and Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, Paying For Jail:
How County Jails Extract Wealth From New York Communities,
by Katie Schaffer, Bianca Tylek and Robert Callahan, 16 (2019),
https://static1.squarespace.com/static/58e127cb1b10e31ed45b20f4/t/5dfb11f1d92add1f0092b4df/1576735788585/
paying-for-jail-ny.
Worth Rises and Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, Paying For Jail:
How County Jails Extract Wealth From New York Communities,
by Katie Schaffer, Bianca Tylek and Robert Callahan, 16 (2019),
https://static1.squarespace.com/static/58e127cb1b10e31ed45b20f4/t/5dfb11f1d92add1f0092b4df/1576735788585/
paying-for-jail-ny.

https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2019/05/23/
michigan-prison-food-end-privatization/3765317002/.
736

Tim Requarth, How Private Equity Is Turning Public Prisons Into
Big Profits, The Nation (Apr. 30, 2019), https://www.thenation.
com/article/archive/prison-privatization-private-equity-hig/.

737

Paul Egan, Michigan To End Prison Food Deal With Aramark,
Detroit Free Press (Jul. 13, 2015),

https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2015/07/13/
state-ends-prison-food-contract-aramark/30080211/.
738

726

727

728

Associated Press, Connecticut Becomes 1st State to Make All
Prison Phone Calls Free, (June 18, 2021), https://apnews.
com/article/ct-state-wire-connecticut-business-74bd56af78d202384a128331062dd9c1.
Brennan Center for Justice, Charging Inmates Perpetuates
Mass Incarceration, by Lauren-Brooke Eisen (May 21, 2015),
https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/
charging-inmates-perpetuates-mass-incarceration.
The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the Eighth Amendment’s
prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment requires the
government to provide adequate health care to prisoners. It ruled
in Estelle v. Gamble that ignoring a prisoner’s serious medical
needs can amount to cruel and unusual punishment, noting that
“[a]n inmate must rely on prison authorities to treat his medical
needs; if the authorities fail to do so, those needs will not be met. In
the worst cases, such a failure may actually produce physical torture or a lingering death[.] … In less serious cases, denial of medical
care may result in pain and suffering which no one suggests would
serve any penological purpose.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103
(1976).

729

Prison Policy Initiative, The Steep Cost of Medical Co-pays in Prison
Puts Health at Risk, by Wendy Sawyer (Apr. 19, 2017), https://www.
prisonpolicy.org/blog/2017/04/19/copays/.

730

Arkansas Department of Correction, Guide For Family
And Friends, 12, https://doc.arkansas.gov/correction/
publications/friends-and-family-guide/, also available at
https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/read/52538382/
guide-for-family-and-friends-arkansas-department-of-correction.

731

Prison Policy Initiative, The Steep Cost of Medical Co-pays in Prison
Puts Health at Risk, by Wendy Sawyer (Apr. 19, 2017), https://www.
prisonpolicy.org/blog/2017/04/19/copays/.

732

A recent report found that some incarcerated people have copays
that are equivalent to non-incarcerated minimum wage workers
being forced to pay over $1000 in copay. Prison Policy Initiative,
The Steep Cost of Medical Co-pays in Prison Puts Health at Risk, by
Wendy Sawyer (Apr. 19, 2017), https://www.prisonpolicy.org/
blog/2017/04/19/copays/.

733

Id.

734

Interview with Marvin Mutch, director of advocacy, Prisoner
Reentry Network, via Zoom (Apr. 16, 2020) (on file with authors).

735

Paul Egan, Problem-Plagued Prison Kitchens Better After Private
Contracts End, Officials Say, Detroit Free Press (May 23, 2019),

136

ACLU Research Report

Michael Gerstein And Jonathan Oosting, State Set To End Private
Prison Food Service, Detroit News (Feb. 7, 2018),

https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/politics/2018/02/07/
michigan-snyder-private-prison-food/110187208/.
739

Interview Amika Mota, policy director, Young Women’s Freedom
Center, via Zoom (Jun. 24, 2021) (on file with authors).

740

Id.

741

Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, Reentry
Initiatives & Transitional Work Programs, https://doc.louisiana.
gov/offender-programs-resources/transition-reentry/.

742

California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation, Vision,
Mission, Values, and Goals, https://www.cdcr.ca.gov/about-cdcr/
vision-mission-values/.

743

Prison Policy Initiative, Out of Prison & Out of Work:
Unemployment Among Formerly Incarcerated People, by Lucius
Couloute and Daniel Kopf (Jul. 2018), https://www.prisonpolicy.
org/reports/outofwork.html. The 2017 study calculating an unemployment rate for formerly incarcerated people drew its data from
a government survey, the National Former Prisoner Survey, conducted from January to October of 2008. The survey was derived
from the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, which mandated
that the Bureau of Justice Statistics investigate sexual victimization among formerly incarcerated people, but also contained useful
data on unemployment.

744

Id.

745

Mia Armstrong and Nicole Lewis, What Gate Money Can
(And Cannot) Buy, Marshall Project (Sep. 10, 2019),
https://www.themarshallproject.org/2019/09/10/
what-gate-money-can-and-cannot-buy.

746

Id.

747

Id.

748

Brennan Center for Justice, Conviction, Imprisonment, and Lost
Earnings: How Involvement with the Criminal Justice System
Deepends Inequality, by Terry-Ann Craigie, Ames Grawert, and
Cameron Kimble (Sept. 2020), https://www.brennancenter.org/
sites/default/files/2020-09/EconomicImpactReport_pdf.pdf. See
also Center for Economic and Policy Research, The Price We Pay:
Economic Costs of Barriers to Employment for Former Prisoners
and People Convicted of Felonies, by Cherrie Bucknor and Alan
Barber (June 2016), https://cepr.net/images/stories/reports/
employment-prisoners-felonies-2016-06.pdf; Center for Economic

and Policy Research, Ex-offenders and the Labor Market, by John
Schmitt and Kris Warner (Nov. 2010), http://cepr.net/documents/
publications/ex-offenders-2010-11.pdf
749

750

Center for Economic and Policy Research, Ex-offenders and
the Labor Market, by John Schmitt and Kris Warner, (Nov.
2010), http://cepr.net/documents/publications/ex-offenders-2010-11.pdf; Eugene M. Hyman, The Scarlet eLetter and
Other Roadblocks to Redemption for Female Offenders, 54 Santa
Clara L. Rev. 119, 123 (2014); Urban Institute, Employment
after Prison: A Longitudinal Study of Releasees in Three States,
by Christy Visher, Sara Debus-Sherrill, and Jennifer Yahner
(Oct. 2008), https://www.urban.org/research/publication/
employment-after-prison-longitudinal-study-releasees-three-states.
American Bar Association, Commission on Effective Criminal
Sanctions, Second Chances in the Criminal Justice System:
Alternatives to Incarceration and Reentry Strategies (2007); Steven
D. Bell, The Long Shadow: Decreasing Barriers to Employment,
Housing, and Civic Participation for People with Criminal Records
Will Improve Public Safety and Strengthen the Economy, 42 W. St. L.
Rev. 1, 10 (2014).

759

Telephone Interview with Brooke Terpstra, Incarcerated Workers
of the World (Aug. 1, 2019) (on file with authors).

760

Rand Corporation, Education and Vocational Training in Prisons
Reduces Recidivism, Improves Job Outlook (Aug. 22, 2013), https://
www.rand.org/news/press/2013/08/22.html.

761

Rand Corporation, Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional
Education: A Meta-Analysis of Programs that Provide Education
to Incarcerated Adults, xvii (2013), https://www.rand.org/pubs/
research_reports/RR266.html.

762

Rand Corporation, Education and Vocational Training in Prisons
Reduces Recidivism, Improves Job Outlook, (Aug. 22, 2013), https://
www.rand.org/news/press/2013/08/22.html.

763

Interview with Jerome Morgan, Free-Dem Foundations Co-Founder,
in New Orleans, LA (Nov. 6, 2019) (on file with authors).

764

Michael Gibson-Light, The Prison as Market: How Penal Labor
Systems Reproduce Inequality, PhD diss. University of Arizona, 95
(2019).

765

Louisiana Legislative Auditor, Prison Enterprises—Evaluation of
Operations, Department of Public Safety and Corrections (May 1,
2019), https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/media/publications/
Louisiana_Legislative_Auditor_-_Prison_Enterprises_-_
Evaluation_of_Operations_Dept._of_Public_Safety_and_
Corrections_2019.pdf.

751

Rand Corporation, Education and Vocational Training in Prisons
Reduces Recidivism, Improves Job Outlook (Aug. 22, 2013), https://
www.rand.org/news/press/2013/08/22.html.

752

U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Collateral Consequences:
The Crossroads of Punishment, Redemption, and the Effects
on Communities, 35 (June 2019), https://www.usccr.gov/
pubs/2019/06-13-collateral-consequences.pdf.

766

Id.

753

Id. at 80; Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow 145 (2010).

767

754

U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Collateral Consequences:
The Crossroads of Punishment, Redemption, and the Effects
on Communities, 35 (June 2019), https://www.usccr.gov/
pubs/2019/06-13-Collateral-Consequences.pdf.

Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and
Expenditure Review (PEER) Mississippi, Issue Brief: A Review of
the Sustainability of the Mississippi Prison Industries Corporation
(Nov. 17, 2021) at 4 https://www.peer.ms.gov/Reports/reports/
rpt663.pdf.

768
755

26 U.S.C. § 3306(c)(21). See also National Employment
Law Project, Radical Inequality, Records, and Recovery
(Oct. 2020), https://s27147.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/
FAQ-Recovery-and-Records-2020-10-20.pdf; Isabelle Holt,
The Case for Unemployment Insurance for Incarcerated
Workers, On Labor (Mar. 23, 2022), https://onlabor.org/
the-case-for-unemployment-insurance-for-incarcerated-workers/.

U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education
Statistics, Highlights from the U.S. PIAAC Survey of Incarcerated
Adults: Their Skills, Work Experience, Education, and Training (Nov.
2016), https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2016/2016040.pdf.

769

John Howard Association of Illinois, Cuts in Prison Education Put
Illinois at Risk, by Robert Manor, https://static1.squarespace.com/
static/5beab48285ede1f7e8102102/t/5d30e3745729f30001eabaa1/1563485045099/Prisoneducation.pdf.

770

Id.

771

Interview with N’ashid Abdul Latif, former hospice worker in
California Medical Facility prison (Dec. 16, 2020) (on file with
authors).

772

Interview with Syrita Steib, co-founder and executive director,
Operation Restoration, in New Orleans, LA (Nov. 8, 2019) (on file
with authors).

773

Interview with [Name withheld to preserve anonymity, at interviewee’s request], incarcerated at Centralia Correctional Center, IL
(Dec. 27, 2020) (on file with authors).

774

Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing
Reform, Final Report (Parts I & II) (Dec. 2016), http://www.icjia.
org/cjreform2015/pdf/CJSR_Final_Report_Dec_2016.pdf.

756

757

758

Beth Schwartzapfel, Taking Freedom: Modern-Day Slavery in
America’s Prison Workforce, Pac. Standard (May 7, 2018), https://
psmag.com/social-justice/taking-freedom-modern-day-slavery.
Colorado Department of Corrections, Employed as of 12.31.2018,
FOIA response document (on file with authors); Michael GibsonLight, The Prison as Market: How Penal Labor Systems Reproduce
Inequality, PhD diss. University of Arizona, 55 (2019); Written
survey response by [Name withheld to preserve anonymity, at survey respondent’s request], incarcerated at Cal. State Prison- Solano,
CA (on file with authors).
Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), Using Time
to Reduce Crime: Federal Prisoner Survey Results Show Ways
to Reduce Recidivism, by Kevin Ring and Molly Gill (Jun. 2017),
https://famm.org/wp-content/uploads/Prison-Report_May31_Final.pdf.

Captive Labor

137

775

National Employment Law Project, Fair Chance Licensing
Reform, by Beth Avery, Maurice Emsellem, and Han Lu
(Dec. 2019), https://s27147.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/
FairChanceLicensing-v4-2019.pdf.

776

Id.

777

National Employment Law Project, Unlicensed & Untapped:
Removing Barriers to State Occupational Licenses for People with
Records, by Michelle Natividad Rodriguez and Beth Avery (Apr.
2016), https://s27147.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/unlicensed-untapped-removing-barriers-state-occupational-licenses.pdf.

778

Id.

779

National Employment Law Project, Fair Chance Licensing
Reform, by Beth Avery, Maurice Emsellem, and Han Lu
(Dec. 2019), https://s27147.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/
FairChanceLicensing-v4-2019.pdf.

780

Id.

781

Id.

782

Ashley Nerbovig, License to Clip: A movement to let the formerly
incarcerated cut hair and drive taxis is gaining ground, Marshall
Project (Jul. 10, 2018), https://www.themarshallproject.
org/2018/07/10/license-to-clip.

783

U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Collateral Consequences:
The Crossroads of Punishment, Redemption, and the Effects
on Communities, 51 (June 2019), https://www.usccr.gov/
pubs/2019/06-13-collateral-consequences.pdf.

784

Id.

785

Abby Vesoulis, Inmates Fighting California Wildfires Are More
Likely to Get Hurt, Records Show, Time (Nov. 16, 2018), https://time.
com/5457637/inmate-firefighters-injuries-death/.

786

Kayla Galloway, Gov. Gavin Newsom Signs Bill to Allow Inmate
Firefighters to Work Professionally After Serving Prison Time, ABC
News (Sep. 11, 2020), https://abc7news.com/inmate-firefighterscalifornia-incarcerated-cdcr-gavin-newsom/6419175/.

787

788

789

790

138

Rachel Sharp, California Loses Manpower to Fight Wildfires After
More Than 800 Inmates in Controversial Firefighting Program Were
Released Due to Pandemic – As the Prison Population Makes Up
43% of All Responders, Daily Mail UK (Aug. 23 2020), https://www.
dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8655235/California-released-800inmate-firefighters-pandemic-months-wildfires.html.
Kayla Galloway, Gov. Gavin Newsom Signs Bill to Allow Inmate
Firefighters to Work Professionally After Serving Prison Time, ABC
News (Sept. 11, 2020), https://abc7news.com/inmate-firefighterscalifornia-incarcerated-cdcr-gavin-newsom/6419175/.
Center for American Progress, Expunging and
Sealing Criminal Records, by Kenny Lo (Apr. 15,
2020), https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/
criminal-justice/reports/2020/04/15/483264/
expunging-clearing-criminal-records/.
Gurrola v. Duncan, No. 21-15414, 2:20-cv-01238-JAM-DMC (9th
Cir. 2022); Bob Egelko, Appeals Court Upholds California Rules

ACLU Research Report

Preventing Many Former Inmates from Becoming Firefighters, San
Francisco Chronicle (June 10, 2022), https://www.sfchronicle.
com/bayarea/article/Appeals-court-upholds-California-rulespreventing-17231868.php.
791

One study of three U.S. states found that those making
over $10 per hour were half as likely to recidivate as those
making $7. Urban Institute, Employment after Prison: A
Longitudinal Study of Releasees in Three States, by Christy
Visher, Sara Debus-Sherrill, and Jennifer Yahner, 8 (Oct.
2008), https://www.urban.org/research/publication/
employment-after-prison-longitudinal-study-releasees-three-states.

792

Center for the Study of Liberty at Arizona State University,
Turning Shackles Into Bootstraps: Why Occupational Licensing
Reform Is the Missing Piece of Criminal Justice Reform, by
Stephen Slivinski, 5-6 (2016), https://research.wpcarey.asu.edu/
economic-liberty/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/csel-policy-report-2016-01- turning-shackles-into-bootstraps.pdf.

793

U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Collateral Consequences:
The Crossroads of Punishment, Redemption, and the Effects
on Communities, 50 (June 2019), https://www.usccr.gov/
pubs/2019/06-13-Collateral-Consequences.pdf (internal quotations omitted).

794

Stef W. Knight, How Inmates Who Fight Wildfires are Later Denied
Firefighting Jobs, Axios (Nov. 17, 2018), https://www.axios.com/
how-inmates-who-fight-wildfires-are-later-denied-firefighting-jobs1513306736-c63805dd-c2fb-4c04-a81e-1f9a7058ef34.html.

795

National Employment Law Center, 65 Million “Need Not
Apply”: The Case for Reforming Criminal Background Checks
for Employment, by Michelle Natividad Rodriguez and Maurice
Emsellem (Mar. 2011), https://s27147.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/65_Million_Need_Not_Apply1.pdf; Roy Maurer;
Roy Maurer, Nearly Half of Employers Continue to Ask About
Criminal History on Job Applications, SHRM (Aug. 23, 2017),
https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/ban-the-box-criminal-history-job-applications.aspx.

796

Aramark, Get the Facts, https://www.aramark.com/landing-pages/
corrections-facts; H. Claire Brown, This Under-the-Radar Supply
Chain Routes Food from Prisons to Hospitals, Food Banks, and
Even Schools, The Counter (May 25, 2021), https://thecounter.org/
this-under-the-radar-supply-chain-routes-food-from-prisons-to-hospitals-food-banks-and-even-schools/.

797

Aramark, Get the Facts, https://www.aramark.com/landing-pages/
corrections-facts; National Employment Law Center, 65 Million
“Need Not Apply”: The Case for Reforming Criminal Background
Checks for Employment, by Michelle Natividad Rodriguez and
Maurice Emsellem (Mar. 2011), https://s27147.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/65_million_need_not_apply1.pdf.

798

This practice stopped as a result of a lawsuit by the NY Office of
the Attorney General which resulted in a settlement mandating a
combination of “policy reform, training of employees, and ongoing
independent compliance monitoring.” Id. at 11.

799

Id.

800 Interview with Daniel Tapia, First 72+ Programs Manager, in New
Orleans, LA (Nov. 8, 2019) (on file with authors).

801

New Profit, Eight Extraordinary Social Entrepreneurs Come
Together for Second Unlocked Futures Cohort, Amplify
Blog (Oct. 25, 2019), http://blog.newprofit.org/amplify/
eight-extraordinary-social-entrepreneurs-come-together-for-second-unlocked-futures-cohort.

similar provision in article 6, excludes hard labor when imposed
as punishment by a competent court. The European Convention
on Human Rights excludes “any work required to be done in the
ordinary course of detention.” Art. 4(3)(a). The European Court of
Human Rights does evaluate any difference in legal protections and
entitlements granted to prisoners under the non-discrimination
provisions (Article 14) of the Charter. See Stummer v. Austria, App.
No. 37452/02, Eur. Ct. H.R. (Jul. 7, 2011).

802 Devah Pager, The Mark of a Criminal Record, 108 Am. J. Soc. 937
(2003), https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/pager/files/pager_ajs.
pdf.
818

Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General
Comment No. 18, The Right To Work, adopted Nov. 24, 2005, UN
Doc E/C.12/GC/18 (Feb. 6, 2006) para 23.

819

International Labour Organization (ILO), Convention Concerning
Forced or Compulsory Labour (ILO No. 29), 39 U.N.T.S. 55 (Jun. 28,
1930), art. 2(2)(c).

803 Devah Pager, Walking the Talk? What Employers Say Versus What
They Do, 70 Am. Soc. Rev. 355 (2005), https://scholar.harvard.edu/
files/pager/files/asr_pagerquillian2.pdf.
804 Devah Pager, Bruce Western, and Naomi Sugie, Sequencing
Disadvantage: Barriers to Employment Facing Young Black and
White Men with Criminal Records, 623 Ann. Am. Acad. Pol. Soc.
Sci. 195 (2009), https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/pager/files/
annals_sequencingdisadvantage.pdf.
805 Id.
806 National Employment Law Project, Ban the Box: U.S. Cities,
Counties, and States Adopt Fair Hiring Policies, by Beth Avery
and Han Lu (Oct. 2021), https://www.nelp.org/publication/
ban-the-box-fair-chance-hiring-state-and-local-guide/.
807 Leadership Conference, Fact Sheet: Fair Chance Hiring (Mar.
27, 2017), http://civilrightsdocs.info/pdf/criminal-justice/fair_
chance_hiring.pdf.
808 See Dallan F. Flake, Do Ban-The-Box Laws Really Work?, 104 Iowa L.
Rev. 1079 (2019), https://ilr.law.uiowa.edu/assets/Uploads/ILR104-3-Flake.pdf.
809 Id. (summarizing studies).
810

Telephone Interview with Albert Woodfox (Nov. 10, 2019) (on file
with authors).

811

United Nations General Assembly Resolution 217 (III) A, Universal
Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), art. 23 (Dec. 10, 1948)
(“Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to
just and favourable conditions of work.…Everyone who works has
the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself
and his family an existence worthy of human dignity…”).

812

UDHR, art. 5. This provision has been codified in International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) art. 7, opened for
signature Dec. 16, 1966, 999 U.N.T.S. 171 and the Convention
Against Torture (CAT) art. 16, opened for signature Dec. 10, 1984,
1465 U.N.T.S. 85.

813

UDHR, Preamble, art. 2.

814

ICCPR, art. 10(1).

815

ICCPR, art. 10(3).

816

United Nations Human Rights Committee, General Comment No.
21: Art. 10, para. 3 (Apr. 10, 1992).

817

The Human Rights Committee has never addressed ICCPR
article 8(3)(b) in its jurisprudence or general comments. However,
the American Convention on Human Rights, which contains a

820 International Labour Organization (ILO), Eradication of Forced
Labour: General Survey Concerning the Forced Labour Convention,
1930 (No. 29), and the Abolition of Forced Labour Convention,
1957 (No. 105) (Feb. 15, 2007), (articles 19, 22 and 35 of the
Constitution), Report III Part 1B (ILC 96th session, 2007), para. 26.
See Faina Milman-Sivan & Yair Sagy, On the International Labour
Organization and Prison Labour: An Invitation for Recalculation,
159 INT’L LAB.REV 505 (2020); Faina Milman-Sivan, Prisoners for
Hire: Towards a Normative Justification of the ILO’s Prohibition of
Private Forced Prison Labor, 36 FORDHAM INTL L.J. 1619 (2013).
821

International Labour Organization (ILO), Abolition of Forced
Labour Convention (ILO No. 105), 320 U.N.T.S. 291 (July 4, 1957).

822 ILO, International Labour Conference, Report of the
Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and
Recommendations, para. 138 at. 230 (1962), https://www.ilo.
org/public/libdoc/ilo/P/09661/09661(1962-46-IV)191-289.
pdf. For further analysis of the Abolition of Forced Labour
Convention (No. 105) and prison labor on the United States,
see also Adelle Blackett and Alice Duquesnoy, Slavery Is Not a
Metaphor: U.S. Prison Labor and Racial Subordination Through
the Lens of the ILO’s Abolition of Forced Labor Convention, 67
UCLA L. Rev. 1504 (2021), https://www.uclalawreview.org/
slavery-is-not-a-metaphor-u-s-prison-labor-and-racial-subordinationthrough-the-lens-of-the-ilos-abolition-of-forced-labor-convention/.
823 ILO, International Labour Conference, Eradication of Forced
Labour, Report III (Part 1B), General Survey Concerning the Forced
Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29) and the Abolition of Forced
Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105) at para. 191 (2007), https://
www.ilo.org/public/libdoc/ilo/P/09661/09661(2007)1B.pdf.
824 ILO, International Labour Conference, Eradication of Forced
Labour, Report III (Part 1B), General Survey Concerning the Forced
Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29) and the Abolition of Forced
Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105) at 81 (2007), https://www.ilo.
org/public/libdoc/ilo/P/09661/09661(2007)1B.pdf.
825 G.A. Res. 45/111, Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners, ¶
8 (Dec. 14, 1990).
826 The Mandela Rules seek to ensure that the criminal justice system
does not “aggravate the suffering inherent” in being “cut[ ] off…
from the outside world” and deprived of “the right of self-determination.” G.A. Res. 70/175, UN Standard Minimum Rules for the
Treatmeant of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules), U.N. Doc. A/
Res/70/175, at Rule 3 (Jan. 8, 2016).

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139

827 Nelson Mandela Rules, Rule 96 states: “sentenced prisoners shall
have the opportunity to work and/or to actively participate in
their rehabilitation” and “sufficient work of a useful nature shall be
provided to keep prisoners actively employed for a normal working
day.” Rule 97 states that “[p]rison labour must not be of an afflictive
nature” and “prisoners shall not be held in slavery or servitude.”
Rule 98 states that “[s]o far as possible the work provided shall
be such as will maintain or increase the prisoners’ ability to earn
an honest living after release” and that “[p]risoners shall be able
to choose the type of work they wish to perform.” With respect
to working conditions, Rule 101 provides that the “precautions
laid down to protect the safety and health of free workers shall be
equally observed in prisons.” The same Rule also requires adoption
of relevant provisions in order to “indemnify prisoners against
industrial injury, including occupational disease, on terms not less
favourable than those extended by law to free workers.” Rule 102
provides that working hours “shall leave one rest day a week and
sufficient time for education and other activities required as part
of the treatment and rehabilitation of prisoners.” Finally, Rule 103
stipulates that “[t]here shall be a system of equitable remuneration
of the work of prisoners.”
828 See, e.g., Nelson Mandela Rules, Rule 28 and Rule 48.
829 G.A. Res. 65/229, UN Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners
and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the Bangkok
Rules), U.N. Doc. A/RES/65/229, at Rule 29 (Mar. 16, 2011).
830 U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Office of the Inspector General (OIG), Audit
of the Federal Prison Industries, Inc. Annual Financial Statements,
Fiscal year 2021 (Dec. 2021) at 9, https://oig.justice.gov/sites/default/files/reports/22-022.pdf.
831

Federal Bureau of Prisons, UNICOR Program Details, https://www.
bop.gov/inmates/custody_and_care/unicor_about.jsp.

832 Data is for fiscal year 2021. Alabama Department of Corrections,
ADOC Annual Report Fiscal Year 2021 (2021) at 22, 24, 33, http://
www.doc.state.al.us/docs/AnnualRpts/2021%20Annual%20
Report.pdf.
833 Data is as of Feb. 2022. Arizona Department of Corrections
Rehabilitation and Reentry, Corrections at a Glance, February 2022
(Mar. 8, 2022), https://corrections.az.gov/sites/default/files/
REPORTS/CAG/2022/cagfeb-22.pdf.
834 Data is as of June 2020. This figure excludes 510 workers employed
in work release programs. Arkansas Division of Correction, Annual
Report Fiscal Year 2020 (Mar. 2021) at 38, https://doc.arkansas.
gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Division-of-Correction-FY20Annual-Report-Board-of-Corrections-Approved-March-19-2021.pdf.
835 Data is of June 2021. Assembly Committee on Appropriations,
Hearing June 30, 2021 on ACA-3, Involuntary Servitude bill,
https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billAnalysisClient.
xhtml?bill_id=202120220ACA3.

838 Data is as of December 2018. Colorado Department of Corrections,
Employed as of 12/31/2018, FOIA response document (on file with
authors).
839 Colorado Correctional Industries, Annual Report 2020 (July
2020) at 9, https://www.coloradoci.com/bin-pdf/annualReport/07_2020_annrep.pdf.
840 PRIDE data is for calendar year 2020. Florida Office of Program
Policy Analysis and Government Accountability, Florida
Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises,
Inc. (PRIDE), https://oppaga.fl.gov/ProgramSummary/
ProgramDetail?programNumber=1037; Ben Conark, Work Forced:
A Century Later, Unpaid Prison Labor Continues to Power Florida,
Florida Times-Union (May 26, 2019), https://stories.usatodaynetwork.com/workforced/.
841 Data is for fiscal year 2020. Illinois Correctional Industries, 2020
Annual Report (2020) at 5, http://www.icicatalog.illinois.gov/
Documents/AnnualReport/FY20%20Annual%20Report_.pdf.
842 Kansas Correctional Industries, About Us, http://kansasci.com/
shop/custom.aspx?recid=11.
843 Data is as of February 2020. Maryland Department of Public
Safety & Correctional Services, Inmate Worker Assignments,
By Department, published in Alison Knezevich, Thousands of
Maryland Inmates Work in Prison. A New Law Shows Us How
Much They’re Paid, Baltimore Sun (Jan. 2, 2020), https://www.
baltimoresun.com/politics/bs-md-prison-wages-20200102-6kjx5nzhtzfw3fmin662lcqcqm-story.html; Maryland Correctional
Enterprises, Annual Report FY 2019 (2020), https://www.mce.
md.gov/Portals/0/PDF2020/Annual%20Report%202019_1.pdf.
844 Data is for fiscal year 2019. National Correctional Industries
Association, 2020 NCIA Directory (Baltimore, MD: National
Correctional Industries Association, 2020); data also reprinted in
Maryland Correctional Enterprises, Annual Report 2020 (2020)
at 3, https://www.mce.md.gov/Portals/0/PDF2020/Annual%20
Report%202020_12_9.pdf.
845 Data is as of May 2019. Montana Department of Corrections, Work
Assignments, FOIA response document (on file with authors).
846 Montana Department of Corrections, Montana Correctional
Enterprises, https://cor.mt.gov/MCE/; Montana Department
of Corrections, Montana Correctional Enterprise (MCE)
Division (2015), https://www.mtacdl.org/attachments/CPE/
Chico_2015/5_CAmbroseMCEinfo.pdf.
847

Data is for number of incarcerated workers with work assignments
between January 1 and May 1, 2019. Nebraska Department of
Correctional Services, Inmate Jobs, FOIA response document (on
file with authors). Some incarcerated workers had multiple work assignments and we eliminated duplicate work assignments to arrive
at this figure, so that each incarcerated worker is counted only once.

836 Id.

848 Cornhusker State Industries, https://csi.nebraska.gov/.

837 Data is as of May 2021. California Department of Corrections and
Rehabilitation, Conservation (Fire) Camps, https://www.cdcr.
ca.gov/facility-locator/conservation-camps/.

849 Nevada State Legislature, Fiscal Notes for SB 140, Nevada
Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Nevada
Division of Forestry, BDR 16-39 Fiscal Impact Analysis (Apr.
1, 2021), https://www.leg.state.nv.us/Session/81st2021/
FiscalNotes/5663.pdf; Nevada State Legislature, Fiscal Notes
for SB 140, Nevada Department of Corrections BDR 16-38 Fiscal

140

ACLU Research Report

Impact Analysis (Mar. 10, 2021), https://www.leg.state.nv.us/
Session/81st2021/FiscalNotes/2372.pdf; Nevada, Office of
the Governor, State of Nevada 2021-2023 Executive Budget
(Jan. 18, 2021) at Corrections-6, https://budget.nv.gov/uploadedFiles/budgetnvgov/content/StateBudget/2022-2023/
FY2021-23_ExecutiveBudgetBook_WO.pdf.
850 Data is as of April 2019. New Hampshire Department of
Corrections, Job Summary Report, FOIA response document (on
file with authors).
851

Leighann Starkey and Jacalyn Goldzweig Panitz, forthcoming
report to be published by Legal Aid Society on behalf of the 13th
Forward Coalition, based on records provided by the New York
State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision
(DOCCS) in response to a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL)
request filed by the Legal Aid Society, https://www.legalaidnyc.
org/PrisonLaborReport2022. The New York State Department
of Corrections and Community Supervision has not published
data on work assignments other than those with Corcraft and did
not respond to the FOIL request filed by the authors of this report.
According to responsive records provided by DOCCS to Legal
Aid Society, in March 2020, DOCCS reported that incarcerated
workers filled 53,522 jobs across New York State’s prisons. DOCCS
job codes include educational and rehabilitation programs, and
the 14,334 incarcerated students and several thousand various
program participants are paid the minimum wage but are not workers for the purpose of this report. From April 2017 to March 2020,
the average monthly number of jobs filled by incarcerated workers
in New York prisons was 56,810, with about 12,000 individuals
with “unknown” job placement. Based on the responsive records it
is impossible to determine how many incarcerated workers work
multiple jobs, although the “Inmate Worker Wage Plan” DOCCS
directive suggests that many people enrolled as students work
additional jobs.

852 Data is for fiscal year 2019. National Correctional Industries
Association (NCIA), 2020 NCIA Directory (Baltimore, MD: NCIA,
2020); data also reprinted in Maryland Correctional Enterprises,
Annual Report 2020 (2020) at 3, https://www.mce.md.gov/
Portals/0/PDF2020/Annual%20Report%202020_12_9.pdf.
853 Data is for fiscal year 2020-2021. North Carolina Department of
Public Safety, Fiscal Year 2020-2021 Annual Statistical Report
(2021) at 16, https://files.nc.gov/ncdps/Annual-StatisticalReport-FY-2020-2021.pdf.
854 Id. at 17-18. See also North Carolina Department of Public
Safety, Inmate Construction Program, https://www.ncdps.
gov/about-dps/sections/administration/central-engineering/
inmate-construction-program.

856 North Carolina Department of Public Safety, Fiscal Year 2020-2021
Annual Statistical Report (2021) at 18, https://files.nc.gov/ncdps/
Annual-Statistical-Report-FY-2020-2021.pdf.
857

North Carolina Department of Public Safety, Fiscal Year 2019-2020
Annual Statistical Report (2020) at 16-17, https://files.nc.gov/
ncdps/FY-2019-20-Annual-Statistical-Report.pdf.

858 Data is for incarcerated workers on payroll between January 1
and May 10, 2019. North Dakota Department of Corrections &
Rehabilitation, Payroll Data, FOIA response document (on file
with authors). We eliminated duplicates so that each incarcerated
worker is counted only once.
859 Rough Rider Industries, Empowering North Dakota, https://www.
roughriderindustries.com/.
860 Data is for 2021. Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction,
Annual Report 2021, https://drc.ohio.gov/Portals/0/ODRC%20
Annual%20Report%202021.pdf.
861 Data is as of March 2019. Pennsylvania Department of Corrections,
Inmate Employment Report for March 2019, FOIA response document (on file with authors).
862 Data is as of April 2019. Rhode Island Department of Corrections,
FOIA response document (on file with authors).
863 Data is as of June 2018. South Carolina Department of Corrections
Letter to South Carolina Legislative Oversight Committee, Inmate
Work Details: Qualifications, Number Working, Earning, Etc.
(May 24, 2019), https://www.scstatehouse.gov/CommitteeInfo/
HouseLegislativeOversightCommittee/AgencyWebpages/
Corrections/Statistics%20by%20type%20of%20inmate%20
work%20-%20qualifications,%20number%20working,%20costs,%20
etc..pdf.
864 Tennessee Department of Correction, Offender Jobs, https://
www.tn.gov/correction/redirect---rehabilitation/offender-jobs.html; Tennessee Rehabilitative Initiative in Correction
(TRICOR), TRICOR Programs, http://www.tricor.org/content/
tricor-programs.
865 Data is as of April 2019. Texas Legislative Budget Board, Fiscal
Note, 86th Legislative Regular Session, In Re: HB3720 (Apr. 17,
2019) https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/86R/fiscalnotes/pdf/
HB03720I.pdf#navpanes=0; Vicky Camarillo, ‘The Penal System
Today is Slavery: Lawmakers Finally Start to Talk About Unpaid
Labor in Texas Prisons, Texas Observer (May 10, 2019), https://
www.texasobserver.org/penal-system-slavery-unpaid-labor-texas/.
866 Id.

855 There are up to 73 positions and about 160 incarcerated workers
are employed with the BRIDGE program each year. North Carolina
Department of Public Safety, Young Offenders Forest Conservation
Program (BRIDGE), https://www.ncdps.gov/young-offenders-forest-conservation-program-bridge; North Carolina Forest Service,
Young Offenders Forest Conservation Program B.R.I.D.G.E. (Oct.
1, 2017) at 4, https://www.ncleg.gov/documentsites/committees/JointAppropriationsJPS//Reports/FY%202017-18%20
Mandated%20Reports/NCFS_Annual_%20BRIDGE_Report_%20
2017_09_27.pdf.

867 Data for correctional industries is for fiscal year 2019. National
Correctional Industries Association (NCIA), 2020 NCIA Directory
(Baltimore, MD: NCIA, 2020).
868 Data is for 2020. Virginia Department of Planning and Budget,
2020 Fiscal Impact Statement, HB1543 (2020), https://lis.virginia.
gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?201+oth+HB1543F122+PDF.
869 Data is for the fourth quarter of 2021. Washington State
Department of Corrections, Participation by Program
Summary, Class 3 Industries, from 10/1/2021 to 12/31/2021
(Jan. 3, 2022), https://www.doc.wa.gov/docs/publications/

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reports/700-SR001-fourth-quarter-2021.pdf; Washington State
Department of Corrections, Participation by Program Summary, Class
4 Industries, from 10/1/2021 to 12/31/2021 (Jan. 3, 2022), https://
www.doc.wa.gov/docs/publications/reports/700-SR002-fourthquarter-2021.pdf; Washington State Correctional Industries, Annual
Report 2021 (2021) at 11, https://www.doc.wa.gov/docs/publications/
reports/700-SR003.pdf.

www.reckonsouth.com/alabama-department-of-corrections-statement-on-commissaries/. Numerous news sources also state that
nearly all incarcerated workers’ job assignments are unpaid. See, e.g.,
Matthew Vernon Whelan, “Nasty as Hell:” Work and Food in Alabama
Prison, Hard Times Review (July 1, 2020), https://hardtimesreview.
com/2020/07/01/nasty-as-hell-work-and-food-in-alabama-prison-february-may-2020/; Connor Sheets, ‘I Need That Money: Alabama Siphoning
Inmates’ Stimulus Funds to Pay Fines, Fees, Restitution, AI.com (Jun. 3,
2021), https://www.al.com/news/2021/06/i-need-that-money-alabamasiphoning-inmate-stimulus-funds-to-pay-fines-fees-restitution.html;
Connor Sheets, Commissary Slips, Reckon (Aug. 19, 2020), https://www.
reckonsouth.com/how-far-does-15-stretch-behind-bars-in-alabama-findout-at-a-virtual-prison-commissary/.

870 Data is for the fourth quarter of 2021. Washington State Department of
Corrections, Participation by Program Summary, Class 3 Industries, from
10/1/2021 to 12/31/2021 (Jan. 3, 2022), https://www.doc.wa.gov/docs/
publications/reports/700-SR001-fourth-quarter-2021.pdf.
871

Data is for the fourth quarter of 2021. Washington State Department of
Corrections, Participation by Program Summary, Class 4 Industries, from
10/1/2021 to 12/31/2021 (Jan. 3, 2022), https://www.doc.wa.gov/docs/
publications/reports/700-SR002-fourth-quarter-2021.pdf.

872 Data is as of June 30, 2021. Washington State Correctional Industries,
Annual Report 2021 (2021) at 11, https://www.doc.wa.gov/docs/publications/reports/700-SR003.pdf.
873 Data is the number of incarcerated workers on payroll in March 2019.
West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Payroll (Apr.
29, 2019), FOIA response document (on file with authors).
874

Data is for calendar year 2021. Data provided by the Wisconsin
Department of Corrections, Office of the Secretary, Research and Policy
Unit, to the International Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC)
Milwaukee chapter. The Wisconsin Department of Corrections did not
respond to the FOIA request we filed.

875 Federal Bureau of Prisons, Work Programs, https://www.bop.gov/
inmates/custody_and_care/work_programs.jsp; Federal Bureau of
Prisons, Inmate Work and Performance Pay, Policy 5251.06 (Oct. 1, 2008),
https://www.bop.gov/policy/progstat/5251_006.pdf.
876

877

Federal Bureau of Prisons, UNICOR Program Details, https://
www.bop.gov/inmates/custody_and_care/unicor_about.
jsp#:~:text=although%20there%20are%20approximately%20
25%2c000,%c2%a2%20to%20%241.15%20per%20hour; Federal Bureau of
Prisons, Work Programs for Inmates—FPI, Policy 8120.03 (Feb. 23, 2017)
at 28, https://www.bop.gov/policy/progstat/8120_003.pdf.
Federal Bureau of Prisons, UNICOR Program Details, https://www.
bop.gov/inmates/custody_and_care/unicor_about.jsp. The share
of UNICOR jobs (8 percent) is down from 25 percent in 2009. See
House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security,
Committee on the Judiciary, Federal Bureau of Prisons Oversight
Hearing (July 21, 2009).

880 In 2017, it was reported that incarcerated workers employed by Alabama
Correctional Industries were paid $0.25 to $0.75 per hour. Connor
Sheets, Not Just License Plates: 54 Products Alabama Prisoners Get 25
to 75 Cents an Hour to Make, AL.com (Apr. 2, 2017), https://www.al.com/
news/2017/04/not_just_license_plates_produc.html.
881

Ala. Code § 14-8-36; Alabama Department of Corrections Statement on
Commissaries, Reckon (Aug. 19, 2020), https://www.reckonsouth.com/
alabama-department-of-corrections-statement-on-commissaries/; Id.

882 Alaska Department of Corrections, Prisoner Work Programs,
Compensation for Prisoner Produced Goods and Services, Policy 812.02
(effective Mar. 13, 2008), https://doc.alaska.gov/pnp/pdf/812.02.pdf.
883 Arizona Department of Corrections, Department Order Manual: Inmate
Work Activities, Order 903 (effective Dec. 3, 2021), Attachment A, https://
corrections.az.gov/sites/default/files/policies/900/0903_120321.pdf.
884 Id. at Attachment B.
885 Arkansas Division of Correction, Annual Report: Fiscal Year 2020 (Mar.
2021), at 38, https://doc.arkansas.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/
Division-of-Correction-FY20-Annual-Report-Board-of-CorrectionsApproved-March-19-2021.pdf; Arkansas Division of Correction, Inmate
Handbook (Mar. 2020) at 6, https://doc.arkansas.gov/wp-content/
uploads/2020/09/Inmate_Handbook_Updated_March_2020_
Final_02_28_2020_pdf.pdf.
886 Id.
887 Ark. Code Regs § 60, Rule 004-00-20.
888 Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, § 3041.2; California Department of Corrections
and Rehabilitation, Operations Manual (Jan. 1, 2022) at 351, https://
www.cdcr.ca.gov/regulations/wp-content/uploads/sites/171/2022/03/
CDCR-DOM_2022.pdf.

878 United States Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons, FY
2019 Performance Budget , Congressional Submission: Salaries and
Expenses at 8, https://www.justice.gov/jmd/page/file/1034421/download; Christopher Zoukis, Inmate Work Assignments in Federal Prison,
Zoukis Consulting (Sept. 20, 2017), https://prisonerresource.com/
inmate-work-assignments-federal-prison/. https://www.govinfo.gov/
content/pkg/CHRG-111hhrg51223/html/CHRG-111hhrg51223.htm.

889 Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, § 8006; California Department of Corrections
and Rehabilitation, Operations Manual (Jan. 1, 2022) at 355, https://
www.cdcr.ca.gov/regulations/wp-content/uploads/sites/171/2022/03/
CDCR-DOM_2022.pdf.

879 Wages are not published by the Alabama Department of Corrections,
which did not respond to a FOIA request we filed. A spokesperson for the
Alabama Department of Corrections did provide a statement to Reckon
confirming that work assignments are not paid, with the exception
of work-release and work-center programs. Alabama Department of
Corrections Statement on Commissaries, Reckon (Aug. 19, 2020), https://

891

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890 Colorado Department of Corrections, Job Pay, FOIA response document
(on file with authors).
Id.

892 Colorado SB22-050, Work Opportunities for Offenders in Department of
Corrections (signed into law March 30, 2022), https://leg.colorado.gov/
bills/sb22-050; Col. Rev. Stat. § 17-24-114.

893 Connecticut Department of Correction, Administrative Directive:
Inmate Assignment and Pay Plan, Directive 10.1 (effective Oct. 22,
2015), https://portal.ct.gov/-/media/DOC/Pdf/Ad/ad1001pdf.pdf.
See also Connecticut Office of Legislative Research, Inmate Work
Activities, by Jennifer Brady and Amanda Gordon (2011), https://
www.cga.ct.gov/2011/rpt/2011-r-0191.htm.
894 Connecticut Office of Legislative Research, Research Report:
Inmate Wages (July 30, 2018), https://www.cga.ct.gov/2018/rpt/
pdf/2018-R-0179.pdf.
895 Alex Vuocolo, Delaware Correctional Industries Helps Inmates
Build Careers, Delaware Business Times (Feb. 28, 2019), https://
delawarebusinesstimes.com/news/delaware-correctional-industries-helps-inmates-build-careers/#:~:text=The%20starting%20
salary%20is%2025,or%2010%20cent%20merit%20raises.
896 Florida Office of Program Policy and Government Accountability,
Department of Corrections: Inmate Programs, https://oppaga.
fl.gov/ProgramSummary/ProgramDetail?programNumber=1045;
Ben Conark, Work Forced: A Century Later, Unpaid Prison Labor
Continues to Power Florida, Florida Times-Union (May 26, 2019),
https://stories.usatodaynetwork.com/workforced/; Jerry
Iannelli, As Covid-19 Ravages Florida, Incarcerated People Are
Still Doing the State’s Hard Outdoor Labor, The Appeal (Apr. 9,
2020), https://theappeal.org/covid-19-prison-labor-florida/;
Mitch Perry, Proposal to Ban Free Prison Labor Introduced
for 2022 Florida Legislative Session, Bay News 9 (Jan. 5, 2022),
https://www.baynews9.com/fl/tampa/news/2022/01/05/
legislative-proposal-would-ban-free-prison-labor-in-florida-.
897 Florida Office of Program Policy and Government Accountability,
Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises,
Inc. (PRIDE), https://oppaga.fl.gov/ProgramSummary/
ProgramDetail?programNumber=1037; Ben Conark, Work Forced:
A Century Later, Unpaid Prison Labor Continues to Power Florida,
Florida Times-Union (May 26, 2019), https://stories.usatodaynetwork.com/workforced/.
898 Florida Office of Program Policy and Government Accountability,
Department of Corrections: Inmate Programs, https://oppaga.
fl.gov/ProgramSummary/ProgramDetail?programNumber=1045.
899 Georgia Department of Corrections, which did not respond to a
FOIA request we filed, does not have any published work policies
on pay for any job assignments other than assignments with the
PIECP work program. See Georgia Department of Corrections,
Policy 409: GCI Inmate Workers, http://www.dcor.state.ga.us/
content/409-policy-gci-inmate-workers; Georgia Department
of Corrections, Prison Industry Enhancement Program, Policy
409.05.01, SOP VJ01-0001. State law governing incarcerated
people’s work does not mention wages or other compensation. See
Ga. R. & Reg. § 125-3-5. The Georgia Department of Corrections
Inmate Handbook similarly does not mention wages for work. See
Georgia Department of Corrections, Inmate Handbook, http://
www.dcor.state.ga.us/sites/all/files/pdf/GDC_Inmate_Handbook.
pdf. Numerous news sources also state that nearly all incarcerated
workers’ job assignments are unpaid. See, e.g., Adrian Drepaul,
I Had a Shitty Job in Prison, Marshall Project (Aug. 8, 2019),
Christie Thompson, Do Prison Strikes Work?, Marshall Project
(Sept. 21, 2016); Use of Unpaid Inmate Labor Scrutinized in AthensClarke County, Grady (Apr. 5, 2019); Erin Paige McGonigle, First
Responders, Second Priority: Georgia’s Inmate Firefighter Program
and International Human Rights Standards, 48 Georgia J. Intl. &
Comp. L. 189 (Apr. 11, 2021); Spencer Donovan, UGA Agriculture

College Evaluates Research Program that Uses Unpaid Inmate Labor,
Red & Black (Jul. 20, 2021); George Lavender, Alabama Prison
Work Strike ‘Stalls’ But Wins Support from Wobblies, In These Times
(Apr. 25, 2014), Adam Crisp, Georgia Inmates Strike in Fight for Pay,
Chattanooga Times Free Press (Dec. 14, 2010).
900 Bill Torpy, Georgia Inmates’ ‘Free’ Work Has a Price, Atlanta
Journal-Constitution (Oct. 20, 2011); Jamani Montague,
Mapping Georgia Carceral Facilities Partnered with GCI (Georgia
Correctional Industries), Feb. 6, 2018, https://jamanimontague.
wordpress.com/2018/02/06/mapping-georgia-carceral-facilities-partnered-with-gci-georgia-correctional-industries/.
901

Erin Paige McGonigle, First Responders, Second Priority: Georgia’s
Inmate Firefighter Program and International Human Rights
Standards, 48 Georgia J. Intl. & Comp. L. 189 (Apr. 11, 2021),
https://digitalcommons.law.uga.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2471&context=gjicl; Use of Unpaid Inmate Labor Scrutinized in
Athens-Clarke County, Grady (Apr. 5, 2019); Georgia Department
of Corrections (GDC), County Prisons, http://dcor.state.ga.us/
Divisions/Facilities/CountyPrisons (stating “Some low-security,
long-term state prisoners are incarcerated at county work camps.
They provide unpaid, yet highly-skilled work to the counties in
which they are housed…. GDC offenders assist in the maintenance
of roads and parks; work at local landfills; serve on local fire crews;
assist with small construction projects for government agencies,
and assist local government agencies as needed.”); Georgia
Department of Corrections, Reentry & Cognitive Programming,
http://www.dcor.state.ga.us/Divisions/Facilities/Transitional
(stating “The maintenance residents are assigned full-time to
maintain the facility or other state facilities in the area. For example, approximately half of the residents assigned to the Atlanta
Transitional Center are maintenance workers who provide details
to the Governor’s Mansion, the State Capitol Complex, and the
State Highway Patrol Headquarters. These residents are not paid
any wages.”).

902 Ga. Code Ann. § 42-5-129(b)(2).
903 Hawaii Department of Public Safety, Corrections Administration
Policies and Procedures: Inmate Work Program/Compensation,
Policy COR.14.02 (effective Apr. 23, 2018), https://dps.hawaii.gov/
wp-content/uploads/2018/04/COR.14.02.pdf.
904 Prison Policy Initiative, State and Federal Prison Wage Policies
and Sourcing Information (Apr. 10, 2017) (wage information provided to Prison Policy Initiative by Hawaii Correctional Industries),
https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/wage_policies.html.
905 Idaho Department of Corrections, Standard Operating Procedure:
Incentive Pay for Residents and CRC Workers, Control Number
611.02.01.004, Version 4 (effective July 3, 2019), http://forms.idoc.
idaho.gov/WebLink/ElectronicFile.aspx?docid=281939&dbid=0.
906 Idaho Department of Corrections, Standard Operating Procedure:
Vocational Work Projects, Control Number 611.02.01.003, Version 4
(effective Apr. 13, 2014), http://forms.idoc.idaho.gov/WebLink/0/
edoc/281938/Vocational%20Work%20Projects%20Inmate%20
Selection%20and%20Crew%20Management.pdf.
907 Illinois Department of Corrections, Administrative Directive
05.03.103, Monetary Compensation for Assignments for Individuals
in Custody (July 1, 2021), https://www2.illinois.gov/idoc/aboutus/Policies/Policies/Operations/503103%20Monetary%20

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Compensation%20for%20Assignments%20for%20Individuals%20
in%20Custody.pdf.
908 Illinois Department of Corrections, ICI Criteria for Inmate Assignment
by Function, Pay Scales, FOIA response document (on file with authors).
909 Indiana Department of Corrections, Offender Assignments and Pay
Schedules, Policy 02-01-106 (effective June 1, 2017).
910

911

Indiana Correctional Industries, FAQ: Are Offenders Paid
to Work at ICI Products?, https://faqs.in.gov/hc/en-us/
articles/115005237988-Are-offenders-paid-to-work-at-ICI-Products-.
Iowa Department of Corrections, Policy and Procedures: Incarcerated
Individual Work Programs, Policy OP-WI-01 (effective July 2020),
https://doc.iowa.gov/sites/default/files/op-wi-01_incarcerated_individual_work_programs_0.pdf.

912

Id.

913

Kansas Department of Corrections, Internal Management Policy &
Procedure: Resident Work Assignments, Policy 10-109A (effective Jan.
21, 2022), https://www.doc.ks.gov/kdoc-policies/AdultIMPP/chapter-10/10-109a-resident-work-assignments.pdf/view.

914

Id.

915

Kentucky Corrections, Policies and Procedures: Inmate Wage/Time
Credit Program, Policy 19.3 (effective Jan. 4, 2019), https://corrections.
ky.gov/About/cpp/Documents/19/CPP%2019.3%20PDF.pdf.

916

La. Admin. Code tit. 22, § I-331(10).

917

La. Rev. Stat. Tit. 15, § 873. A state legislative audit of the Prison
Enterprises program found that the majority of incarcerated
workers employed in the program were either not paid, or received
between two and 10 cents per hour. Specifically, of the 767 incarcerated people working in Prison Enterprises in June 2018, 104
were not eligible for any payment (13.6 percent), 131 earned “good
time” rather than receiving any payment (17 percent), 180 were paid
between two and 10 cents per hour (23.5 percent), and 350 (45.6
percent) earned the “highest” wages of between 11 and 20 cents per
hour. Louisiana Legislative Auditor, Prison Enterprises—Evaluation
of Operations, Department of Public Safety and Corrections (May 1,
2019) at 4, https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/media/publications/
Louisiana_Legislative_Auditor_-_Prison_Enterprises_-_Evaluation_
of_Operations_Dept._of_Public_Safety_and_Corrections_2019.pdf.

918

La. Admin. Code Tit. 22, § I-331(2)(L).

919

La. Admin. Code Tit. 22, § I-331(D).

920 La. Admin. Code Tit. 22, § I-331(C-D); La. Rev. S. § 15:571.3..
921

Maine Department of Corrections, Pay Matrix, FOIA response document (on file with authors).

922 Id. See also Maine Department of Corrections, Policy 25.3: Work
Opportunities and Industries (revised Oct. 4, 2010), https://www.
maine.gov/corrections/sites/maine.gov.corrections/files/inline-files/
INDUSTRIES%2C%20GENERAL%20PROCEDURES%2025%20
03%20%5B1%5D.pdf (stating that 50 percent of the work force may earn
between $1,000.00 and $2,500.00 annually. 25 percent of the work force
may earn between $2,500.00 and $4,000.00 annually, 25 percent may
earn between $4,000.00 and $5,000.00 annually. The only exception

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to this shall be that three positions at each facility may be paid up
to $6,000.00 annually based on extraordinary circumstances or the
responsibility of the positions).
923 Maryland Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services, Inmate
Pay Scale, published in Alison Knezevich, Thousands of Maryland
Inmates Work in Prison. A New Law Shows Us How Much They’re Paid,
Baltimore Sun (Jan. 2, 2020), https://www.baltimoresun.com/politics/
bs-md-prison-wages-20200102-6kjx5nzhtzfw3fmin662lcqcqm-story.
html.
924 Id.; Maryland Correctional Enterprises, Annual Report FY 2019 (2020)
at 12, https://www.mce.md.gov/Portals/0/PDF2020/Annual%20
Report%202019_1.pdf.
925 Massachusetts Regulations, 103 Code Mass. Reg. 405.07, Inmate
Wages and Stipends, https://www.mass.gov/doc/103-cmr-405-inmate-funds-0/download; Massachusetts Department of Correction,
Institution Work Assignments, FOIA response documents (on file with
authors).
926 Massachusetts Department of Correction, All Institution MassCor
Stipend Report, FOIA response document (on file with authors).
927 Michigan Department of Corrections, Prisoner Work Assignment Pay
and School Stipend, Policy 05.02.110A (effective Oct. 5, 2020), https://
www.michigan.gov/documents/corrections/05_02_110_704259_7.
pdf.
928 Minnesota Department of Corrections, Policy Manual, Offender
Programs: Offender Assignment and Compensation Plan, Policy
204.010 (effective Jan. 3, 2017), https://policy.doc.mn.gov/
DocPolicy/?Opt=204.010.htm.
929 Id.
930 The Mississippi Department of Corrections has not published wage policies for incarcerated workers and did not respond to the FOIA request
we filed. South Mississippi Correctional Institution reported to a legislative oversight body in 2013 that the following work assignments are
unpaid: “dining hall workers, tutors for literacy, chaplain workers, unit
maintenance, gym workers, administrative workers, central kitchen,
and infirmary workers, among others.” Joint Legislative Committee on
Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review (PEER) Mississippi,
Report to the Mississippi Legislature: A Performance Review of the
Mississippi Prison Industries Corporation (June 11, 2013) at 11, https://
www.peer.ms.gov/reports/rpt571.pdf.
931

Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and
Expenditure Review (PEER) Mississippi, Report to the Mississippi
Legislature: A Review of the Mississippi Prison Industries Corporation
(May 15, 2018) at 9, https://www.peer.ms.gov/Reports/reports/
rpt620.pdf.

932 Miss. Code Ann. § 47-5-138.1; Miss. Code Ann. § 47-5-142. Mississippi
Department of Corrections, Inmate Handbook: Inmate Employment and
Job Assignment. Chapter III, https://www.mdoc.ms.gov/Inmate-Info/
Documents/CHAPTER_III.pdf.
933 Prison Policy Initiative, State and Federal Prison Wage Policies and
Sourcing Information (Apr. 10, 2017) (wage information provided
to Prison Policy Initiative by Missouri Department of Corrections),
https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/wage_policies.html. Missouri
Department of Corrections did not respond to the FOIA request we filed.

934 Id.; Lauren-Brooke Eisen, Covid-19 Highlights the Need
for Prison Labor Reform, Brennan Center (Apr. 17, 2020),
https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/analysis-opinion/
covid-19-highlights-need-prison-labor-reform.
935 Montana Department of Corrections, FOIA response document (on
file with authors).

945 Nevada State Legislature, Fiscal Notes for SB 140, Nevada
Department of Administration, State Public Works Division, BDR
16-39 Fiscal Impact Analysis (Apr. 1, 2021), https://www.leg.
state.nv.us/Session/81st2021/FiscalNotes/7837.pdf; Nevada
State Legislature, Fiscal Notes for SB 140, Nevada Department of
Transportation, BDR 16-39 Fiscal Impact Analysis (Apr. 1, 2021),
https://www.leg.state.nv.us/Session/81st2021/FiscalNotes/4824.
pdf.

936 Id.
937 Nebraska Department of Correctional Services, Inmate Jobs (detailing all job assignments and wages), FOIA response document (on
file with authors); Nebraska Department of Correctional Services,
Policy 113.17, Inmate Work/Program Assignments and Stipends
(revised November 30, 2021), https://corrections.nebraska.gov/
system/files/rules_reg_files/113.17_2021.pdf.
938 Id.
939 Nevada Senate Committee on Judiciary, Meeting Minutes, SB
140 (Mar. 10, 2021), https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/
REL/81st2021/Meeting/8982?p=2008982; Nevada Department of
Corrections, Initial Orientation Handout (Oct. 2010) at 21, https://
www.law.umich.edu/special/policyclearinghouse/Documents/
Nevada%20Initial%20Orientation%20Handout.pdf.
940 Nevada SB 140, Exhibit, Silver State Industries Wage
Information (Mar. 10, 2021), https://www.leg.state.
nv.us/App/NELIS/REL/81st2021/ExhibitDocument/
OpenExhibitDocument?exhibitId=48386&fileDownload
Name=SB140_Silver%20State%20Industries%20Wage%20
Information_Senator%20Dina%20Neal.pdf.
941

See, e.g., Nevada Senate Committee on Judiciary, Meeting Minutes,
SB 140 (Mar. 10, 2021), https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/
REL/81st2021/Meeting/8982?p=2008982; Nevada Department of
Corrections, Initial Orientation Handout (Oct. 2010) at 21, https://
www.law.umich.edu/special/policyclearinghouse/Documents/
Nevada%20Initial%20Orientation%20Handout.pdf; Nevada
Department of Corrections, Department Organization (stating
“Work assignments provide the basic labor to meets the institutions’
operational needs. Inmates are employed as clerks, cooks, boiler
operators, porters, and in numerous other assignments... The
inmates earn credit towards parole and discharge…and some earn
small wages.”), https://doc.nv.gov/About/Human_Resources/
HR_Organization/.

942 Nevada State Legislature, Fiscal Notes for SB 140, Nevada
Department of Corrections BDR 16-38 Fiscal Impact Analysis
(Mar. 10, 2021), https://www.leg.state.nv.us/Session/81st2021/
FiscalNotes/2372.pdf.
943 Nevada SB 140, Exhibit, Silver State Industries Wage
Information (Mar. 10, 2021), https://www.leg.state.
nv.us/App/NELIS/REL/81st2021/ExhibitDocument/
OpenExhibitDocument?exhibitId=48386&fileDownloadName=
SB140_Silver%20State%20Industries%20Wage%20Information_
Senator%20Dina%20Neal.pdf.
944 Nevada State Legislature, Fiscal Notes for SB 140, Nevada
Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Nevada
Division of Forestry, BDR 16-39 Fiscal Impact Analysis (Apr. 1, 2021),
https://www.leg.state.nv.us/Session/81st2021/FiscalNotes
/5663.pdf.

946 New Hampshire Department of Corrections, FOIA response document (on file with authors).
947

Id.

948 The New Jersey Department of Corrections refused to respond
substantively to the FOIA request we filed. As of 2017, wages from
a 1990 policy were still in effect, and it is unclear whether wages
have changed since then. Department of Corrections Standard 620,
Inmate Wages (revised Feb. 7, 1990), https://www.prisonpolicy.
org/scans/New_Jersey_wages_Standard_620.pdf; Prison Policy
Initiative, State and Federal Prison Wage Policies and Sourcing
Information (Apr. 10, 2017). See also N.J. Admin. Code § 10A:13-1.1
to 10A:13-5.4 (outlining policies governing incarcerated workers’
wages but not specifying pay scales).
949 Stephen Janis and Nadia Kanji, Chris Christie Uses Prisoners
to Fix His Office Furniture, Nation (May 25, 2015), https://
www.thenation.com/article/archive/chris-christie-uses-prisoners-fix-his-office-furniture/; Adam Sternbach, Investing
in NJ’s Prison Labor Programs is Investing in the Future, NJ
Spotlight News (July 25, 2017); https://www.njspotlightnews.
org/2017/07/17-07-24-op-ed-investing-in-nj-s-prison-laborindustrial-programs-is-investing-in-the-future/.
950 New Mexico Corrections Department, Inmate Employment and
Labor Compensation System, Policy CD-100700, Attachment
CD-100702.B (reviewed Jan. 31, 2020), https://www.cd.nm.gov/
wp-content/uploads/2021/02/CD-100700.pdf.
951

New Mexico Corrections Department, Corrections Industries
Plan for Inmate Compensation, Policy CD-110600, Attachment
CD-110602.A (reviewed Feb. 7, 2022), https://www.cd.nm.gov/
wp-content/uploads/2022/03/CD-110600.pdf.

952 New York State Department of Corrections and Community
Supervision, Offender Pay, Offender Payroll Standards (responsive
records dated Nov. 2021), https://doccs.ny.gov/system/files/documents/2021/11/21-03-101-responsive-records.pdf; New York State
Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, Inmate
Payroll Standards, Directive 4802 (July 27, 2018), https://doccs.
ny.gov/system/files/documents/2020/11/4802.pdf.
953 New York State Department of Corrections and Community
Supervision, Division of Correctional Industries, Inmate Worker
Wage Plan, Policy 12002 (July 12, 2017), https://doccs.ny.gov/system/files/documents/2021/11/21-03-101-responsive-records.pdf.
954 New York State Department of Corrections and Community
Supervision, Food Service Operations Manual, Directive 4310
(Apr. 2018) at 15-16, https://doccs.ny.gov/system/files/documents/2021/11/21-03-101-responsive-records.pdf.
955 New York State Department of Corrections and Community
Supervision, Offender Pay, Offender Payroll Standards (responsive

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records dated Nov. 2021), https://doccs.ny.gov/system/files/documents/2021/11/21-03-101-responsive-records.pdf.
956 North Carolina Department of Public Safety, Fiscal Year 20202021 Annual Statistical Report (2021) at 17, https://files.nc.gov/
ncdps/Annual-Statistical-Report-FY-2020-2021.pdf. See also
North Carolina Department of Public Safety Prisons, Policy and
Procedure: Offender Assignment, Policy E.3100 (effective Jan. 17,
2020), https://files.nc.gov/ncdps/E-.3100-06_17_20.pdf. (stating
that non-industry wages are capped at no more than $1.25 per day).
957

969 Rhode Island Department of Corrections, FOIA response document
(on file with authors).
970 Id.
971

Id.

958 North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation,
Payroll Data 2014-2019 and North Dakota State Penitentiary Pay
Grades 02-01-2019, FOIA response documents (on file with authors).
959 Id.
960 Ohio Administrative Code Rule 5120-3-08, Prisoner Employment:
Inmate Compensation for Work Program Assignments and Related
Matters, https://codes.ohio.gov/ohio-administrative-code/
rule-5120-3-08.
961

Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, OPI Inmate
Compensation and Benefits (April 1, 2019), https://www.drc.ohio.
gov/Portals/0/Policies/DRC%20Policies/25-OPI-11%20Apr%20
2019.pdf.

962 Oklahoma Department of Corrections, Systems of Incarceration,
Policy OP-060107 (effective July 7, 2021) at 9-10, https://oklahoma.
gov/content/dam/ok/en/doc/documents/policy/section-06/
op060107.pdf.
963 Oklahoma Department of Corrections, OCI Pay Plan, Policy OP080501 (effective Nov. 17, 2021), https://oklahoma.gov/content/
dam/ok/en/doc/documents/policy/section-08/op080501.pdf;
Oklahoma Department of Corrections, Oklahoma Correctional
Industries Pay Report, Pay Per Hour, DOC 080501F https://
oklahoma.gov/content/dam/ok/en/doc/documents/policy/section-08/080501f.pdf.
964 Oklahoma Department of Corrections, Systems of Incarceration,
Policy OP-060107 (effective July 7, 2021) at 10, https://oklahoma.
gov/content/dam/ok/en/doc/documents/policy/section-06/
op060107.pdf.

972 South Carolina Department of Corrections Division of Industries,
Who We Are Brochure, https://scdcindustries.sc.gov/sites/
default/files/Documents/Who%20We%20Are%20Brochure%20
July%202019.pdf.
973 South Carolina Department of Corrections, Inmate Pay, § 3
(2014), http://www.doc.sc.gov/policy/ADM-15-13.htm.pdf;
South Carolina Department of Corrections, letter to South
Carolina Legislative Oversight Committee, Inmate Work:
Earning and Supervision Details, Policies, and Statutes (May
24, 2019), https://www.scstatehouse.gov/CommitteeInfo/
HouseLegislativeOversightCommittee/AgencyWebpages/
Corrections/Statistics%20by%20type%20of%20inmate%20
work%20-%20qualifications,%20number%20working,%20costs,%20
etc..pdf.
974

967 Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, Policy DC-ADM 816,
Inmate Compensation Manual (March 18, 2016), FOIA response
document (on file with authors).
968 Id.; Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, Procedures Manual,
Policy 9.1.1, Correctional Industries, FOIA response document (on
file with authors).

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South Dakota Department of Corrections, Inmate Work
Assignments and Pay, Policy 1.5.A.1 (effective Jan. 4, 2019), https://
doc.sd.gov/documents/Inmate%20Work%20Assignments%20
and%20Pay142019.pdf.

975 All workers hired after December 2001 earn $0.25 to $0.50 per
hour; workers who were paid $0.70 per hour prior to a policy change
in December 2001 continue to be paid that wage. Pheasantland
Industries, Forging the Future: Prison Industries in South Dakota,
2020 Annual Report (2021) at 2, https://doc.sd.gov/documents/
FY2020PIAnnualReport.pdf.
976

Tennessee Department of Corrections, Administrative Policies
and Procedures, Inmate Pay, Policy 504.04 (effective Jan. 15,
2019), https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/correction/documents/504-04.pdf.

977

Tennessee’s prison industries program, Tennessee Rehabilitative
Initiative in Correction (TRICOR), has not published its pay policies and procedures.

965 Oregon Corrections Enterprises, Issue Brief: Inmate Compensation
(FOIA response document) (on file with authors).
966 Oregon Department of Corrections, FOIA response document
(on file with authors); Oregon Administrative Rules 291-007-0010,
Department of Corrections: Performance Recognition and Award
System; Oregon Administrative Rules 291-077-0030, Department of
Corrections: Performance Awards.

South Carolina Department of Corrections, Inmate Pay, § 3 (2014),
http://www.doc.sc.gov/policy/ADM-15-13.htm.pdf; S.C. Code
Ann. § 24-3-40; South Carolina Department of Corrections, letter
to South Carolina Legislative Oversight Committee, Inmate
Work: Earning and Supervision Details, Policies, and Statutes
(May 24, 2019), https://www.scstatehouse.gov/CommitteeInfo/
HouseLegislativeOversightCommittee/AgencyWebpages/
Corrections/Statistics%20by%20type%20of%20inmate%20
work%20-%20qualifications,%20number%20working,%20costs,%20
etc..pdf.

978 Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Frequently Asked
Questions, https://www.tdcj.texas.gov/faq/cid.html (stating
“Inmates are not paid for their work”); Chris Tomlinson, Prison
Slave Labor Isn’t Just a Problem in China. It Happens in Texas, Too,
Houston Chronicle (Aug. 27, 2021) https://www.houstonchronicle.
com/business/columnists/tomlinson/article/Tomlinson-Prisonslave-labor-persists-in-Texas-16414140.php; Editorial: Unpaid
Prison Labor is Wrong. End it Now, Houston Chronicle (Dec. 3,
2020), https://www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/editorials/
article/Editorial-Unpaid-prison-labor-is-wrong-End-it-15771108.
php; Vicky Camarillo, ‘The Penal System Today is Slavery:
Lawmakers Finally Start to Talk About Unpaid Labor in Texas

Prisons, Texas Observer (May 10, 2019), https://www.texasobserver.org/penal-system-slavery-unpaid-labor-texas/; Lionel
Ramos, Texas State to Host Exploited Labor Conference, University
Star (Oct. 25, 2019), https://www.universitystar.com/news/
texas-state-to-host-exploited-labor-conference/article_fb7bb05456da-54ce-996b-edc31d35c545.html.
979 Id.
980 Texas Correctional Industries, Prison Industry Enhancement
Certification Program, Annual Wage Scale 2021, https://tci.tdcj.
texas.gov/programs/pie/contracts/2021WageScale.pdf. The corporations with contracts are Henderson Controls, Inc. and OnShore
Resources.
981

Alana Rocha, Incarcerated Texans Enlisted to Work in County
Morgue as COVID-19 Deaths Overwhelm El Paso, Texas Tribune
(Nov. 15, 2020), https://www.texastribune.org/2020/11/15/
coronavirus-texas-el-paso-inmates-morgue-deaths/.

982 Utah Department of Corrections, FOIA response document (on file
with authors).
983 Vermont Department of Corrections, Inmate Wage Plan, Policy 394
(effective May 30, 1988), https://doc.vermont.gov/sites/correct/
files/documents/policy/correctional/394-Inmate-Wage-Plan.pdf.
984 Vermont Department of Corrections, Offender Work Programs:
Vermont Correctional Industries Wage Scale, Policy 394.01 (effective
July 12, 2005), https://doc.vermont.gov/sites/correct/files/documents/policy/correctional/394.01-VCI-Wage-Scale.pdf.
985 Virginia Department of Corrections, Offender Work Programs,
Operating Procedure 841.2, (effective July 1, 2020) at 6, https://
vadoc.virginia.gov/files/operating-procedures/800/vadoc-op-841-2.pdf.
986 Virginia Department of Planning and Budget, 2020 Fiscal Impact
Statement, HB1543 (2020), https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/
legp604.exe?201+oth+HB1543F122+PDF; Harvey Yoder, Va. Faces
a Worsening Prison Crisis, News Leader (June 1, 2015), https://
www.newsleader.com/story/opinion/columnists/2015/06/01/
va-faces-worsening-prison-crisis/28256983/.
987 Washington Department of Corrections, Class III Work Programs,
Policy DOC 700.100 (effective Dec. 16, 2021), https://www.doc.
wa.gov/information/policies/default.aspx?show=700.
988 Washington Department of Corrections, Correctional Industries
Work Programs, Policy 710.400 (effective May 24, 2019), https://
www.doc.wa.gov/information/policies/default.aspx?show=700.
989 West Virginia Division of Corrections, Monthly Pay Rates for Jobs at
MOCCJ, FOIA response document (on file with authors).
990 Id.
991

Wisconsin Department of Corrections, Division of Adult
Institutions (DAI) Policy 309.55.01, Inmate Compensation Plan (effective Oct. 21, 2016), https://doc.wi.gov/GuidanceDocumentsV2/
DAI/DAI%20309.55.01%20Inmate%20Compensation%20Plan%20
10-21-16%20PDCI%2008-13-20.pdf.

992 Lauren Henning, A Fraction of Minimum Wage: The Reality
of Bureau of Correctional Enterprises, Badger Herald (Apr. 13,

2021). See also Wisconsin Bureau of Correctional Enterprises,
Annual Report 2021, https://doc.wi.gov/Documents/
OffenderInformation/AdultInstitutions/Annual%20Report%20
FINAL%202021.pdf. In 2014, the pay scale for industry jobs was
$0.79 to $1.41 per hour. Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau,
Joint Committee on Finance, Prison Industries Procurement
Pricing (May 7, 2015), https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/misc/lfb/
budget/2015_17_biennial_budget/102_budget_papers/103_administration_prison_industries_procurement_pricing.pdf.
993 Id.
994 Wyoming Department of Corrections (WDOC), WDOC Form
528, Inmate Payscale—Institutional Work Assignments (March 6,
2012) (FOIA response document) (on file with authors); Wyoming
Department of Corrections, Policy and Procedure 5.004, Inmate
Incentive Pay (July 9, 2021).
995 Wyoming Department of Corrections (WDOC), WDOC Form 512,
Inmate Payscale—WY Brand Industries (June 1, 2014); Wyoming
Department of Corrections, Policy and Procedure 5.004, Inmate
Incentive Pay (July 9, 2021)..
996 Georgia Department of Corrections, which did not respond to a
FOIA request we filed, does not have any published work policies
on pay for any job assignments other than assignments with the
PIECP work program. See Georgia Department of Corrections,
Policy 409: GCI Inmate Workers, http://www.dcor.state.ga.us/
content/409-policy-gci-inmate-workers; Georgia Department
of Corrections, Prison Industry Enhancement Program, Policy
409.05.01, SOP VJ01-0001. State law governing incarcerated
people’s work does not mention wages or other compensation. See
Ga. R. & Reg. § 125-3-5. The Georgia Department of Corrections
Inmate Handbook similarly does not mention wages for work. See
Georgia Department of Corrections, Inmate Handbook, http://
www.dcor.state.ga.us/sites/all/files/pdf/GDC_Inmate_Handbook.
pdf. Numerous news sources also state that nearly all incarcerated
workers’ job assignments are unpaid. See, e.g., Adrian Drepaul,
I Had a Shitty Job in Prison, Marshall Project (Aug. 8, 2019),
Christie Thompson, Do Prison Strikes Work?, Marshall Project
(Sept. 21, 2016); Use of Unpaid Inmate Labor Scrutinized in AthensClarke County, Grady (Apr. 5, 2019); Erin Paige McGonigle, First
Responders, Second Priority: Georgia’s Inmate Firefighter Program
and International Human Rights Standards, 48 Georgia J. Intl. &
Comp. L. 189 (Apr. 11, 2021); Spencer Donovan, UGA Agriculture
College Evaluates Research Program that Uses Unpaid Inmate Labor,
Red & Black (Jul. 20, 2021); George Lavender, Alabama Prison
Work Strike ‘Stalls’ But Wins Support from Wobblies, In These Times
(Apr. 25, 2014), Adam Crisp, Georgia Inmates Strike in Fight for Pay,
Chattanooga Times Free Press (Dec. 14, 2010).
997 Bill Torpy, Georgia Inmates’ ‘Free’ Work Has a Price, Atlanta
Journal-Constitution (Oct. 20, 2011); Jamani Montague,
Mapping Georgia Carceral Facilities Partnered with GCI (Georgia
Correctional Industries), Feb. 6, 2018, https://jamanimontague.
wordpress.com/2018/02/06/mapping-georgia-carceral-facilities-partnered-with-gci-georgia-correctional-industries/.
998 Facility jobs and correctional industries jobs are on a 40-hour
work week schedule. Kansas Department of Corrections, Internal
Management Policy & Procedure: Resident Work Assignments,
Policy 10-109A (effective Jan. 21, 2022), https://www.doc.ks.gov/
kdoc-policies/AdultIMPP/chapter-10/10-109a-resident-work-assignments.pdf/view.

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999 Four-hour jobs are paid at $0.48 to $0.97 per day; eight-hour jobs
are paid at $0.79 to $1.58 per day. Special assignments are $1.21
to $2.42 per day. Kentucky Corrections, Policies and Procedures:
Inmate Wage/Time Credit Program, Policy 19.3 (effective Jan. 4,
2019), https://corrections.ky.gov/About/cpp/Documents/19/
CPP%2019.3%20PDF.pdf.
1000 A full-time assignment is six hours per day. Michigan Department
of Corrections, Prisoner Work Assignment Pay and School Stipend,
Policy 05.02.110A (effective Oct. 5, 2020), https://www.michigan.
gov/documents/corrections/05_02_110_704259_7.pdf.
1001 A full work day is between four and eight hours. Montana
Department of Corrections, FOIA response document (on file with
authors).
1002 Most assignments are for 7.8-hour days for five days per week, but
some are 9.5-hour days for four days per week. Five-day assignments are paid $1.21 to $3.78 per day. Four-day assignments are
paid $1.51 to $4.72 per day. Nebraska Department of Correctional
Services, Inmate Jobs (detailing all job assignments and wages),
FOIA response document (on file with authors); Nebraska
Department of Correctional Services, Policy 113.17, Inmate Work/
Program Assignments and Stipends (revised November 30, 2021),
https://corrections.nebraska.gov/system/files/rules_reg_
files/113.17_2021.pdf.
1003 Each shift is three to four hours. New Hampshire Department of
Corrections, FOIA response document (on file with authors).
1004 Id.
1005 The work day is typically 8 hours, up to 10 hours at most. North
Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Payroll
Data 2014-2019 and North Dakota State Penitentiary Pay Grades
02-01-2019 (FOIA response documents) (on file with authors).
1006 Assignments pay at least $6 per month for less than 60 hours per
month, at least $9 per month for 60 to 89 hours per month, at least
$12 per month for 90-139 hours per month, $12 to $22 per month
for at least 140 hours per month. Up to 3 percent of the institution’s
population may be paid $24 per month for full-time assignments
requiring a great degree of skill or responsibility. An average
month has 22 work days. Ohio Laws and Administrative Rules,
Administrative Code Rule 5120-3-08, Prisoner Employment: Inmate
Compensation for Work Program Assignments and Related Matters,
https://codes.ohio.gov/ohio-administrative-code/rule-5120-3-08.

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