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April 23, 2017

Notable recent work from the Prison Policy Initiative on prison wages and medical co-pays in prisons

LOGO_OnBlack_260s_400x400A helpful reader made sure I did not miss some recent pieces from the Prison Policy Initiative on prison wages and medical co-pays in prisons that ought to be of interest to readers.

The piece on wages, "How much do incarcerated people earn in each state?," provides a 50-state survey of wages paid to incarcerated people. Here is a snippet:

One major surprise: prisons appear to be paying incarcerated people less today than they were in 2001.  The average of the minimum daily wages paid to incarcerated workers for non-industry prison jobs is now 87 cents, down from 93 cents reported in 2001.  The average maximum daily wage for the same prison jobs has declined more significantly, from $4.73 in 2001 to $3.39 today.  What changed?  At least seven states appear to have lowered their maximum wages, and South Carolina no longer pays wages for most regular prison jobs -- assignments that paid up to $4.80 per day in 2001.  With a few rare exceptions, regular prison jobs are still unpaid in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, and Texas.

The piece on medical co-pays, "The steep cost of medical co-pays in prison puts health at risk," highlights the hours it would take a low-paid incarcerated worker to earn enough for one co-pay. Here is an excerpt:

The excessive burden of medical fees and co-pays is most obvious in states where many or all incarcerated people are paid nothing for their work: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas.  Texas is the most extreme example, with a flat $100 yearly health services fee, which some officials are actually trying to double to $200.  People incarcerated in these states must rely on deposits into their personal accounts -- typically from family -- to pay medical fees. In most places, funds are automatically withdrawn from these accounts until the balance is paid, creating a debt that can follow them even after release.

Co-pays that take a large portion of prison wages make seeking medical attention a costly choice.  Co-pays in the hundreds of dollars would be unthinkable for non-incarcerated minimum wage earners.  So why do states think it’s acceptable to charge people making pennies per hour such a large portion of their earnings?  Some might argue that incarcerated people have nothing better to spend wages on than medical care.  But wages allow incarcerated people to buy things they need that the prison does not provide: toiletries, over-the-counter medicine, additional clothes and shoes, as well as phone cards, stamps, and paper to help them maintain contact with loved ones.  Co-pays that take a large portion of prison wages make seeking medical attention a costly choice.

April 23, 2017 at 04:27 PM | Permalink

Comments

Many times, I have proposed make Prison Industries an aggressive, and lucrative business. Then pay prisoners the market wage of their skills. Deduct from it in this order or sequence, 1) cost of prison; 2) cost of legal procedure; 3) cost of damage to crime victims; 4) cost to tax payer; 5) improving prison conditions.

There is much synthetic chemistry talent in prison. Start a generic drug business, including supplying death penalty drugs. There is much hacking talent. Start a computer security consulting, and problem solving business. There is much knowledge of outside criminal activity. Start a police education business. There is much agricultural talent in prison. Start a legal marijuana growing business. Marijuana generates more profit than all other crops in the US combined.

Structured activity, including massive overtime to generate income for everyone, will markedly reduce conflict and injuries in prion.

While most inmates are unfit for outside jobs, they may do well with the limit setting of prison and prison staff. Infractions should be punished by getting fired from the jobs. These will be seen as great privileges reserved for model prisoners.

If people are frustrated by not qualifying for real prison labor, offer opportunities for more education. If one cannot control ones moods and behaviors, to fit into a job situation, ask for treatment to control these.

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