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March 31, 2021

Rounding up some (not-qute) mid-week reads

I have seen a lot of blog-worthy stories in recent days, not all of which are from this week, but all of which are worth checking out:

From CNN, "Baltimore will no longer prosecute drug possession, prostitution and other low-level offenses"

From The Hill, "Biden urges leniency for harsh crack sentences fueled by his crime bill"

From NBC News, "Texas woman sentenced to five years for trying to vote gets new appeal"

From NPR, "When It Comes To Email, Some Prisoners Say Attorney-Client Privilege Has Been Erased"

From Reason, "They Served Their Sentences. Now They Want To Know When They Can Go Home. Programs that keep sex offenders indefinitely confined face new challenges."

From USA Today, "Orrin Hatch: Resolving hardships for children, families key to criminal justice reform"

March 31, 2021 at 09:26 PM | Permalink


One issue that I have long considered and want to write n article about is the failure and refusal of the Bureau of Prisons to pay inmates the Federal minimum wage for the work they perform in prison. Many incarcerated men have child support obligations in the "free world" which they are unable to pay while serving their sentences because the BOP (and state prison systems) does not pay them the Federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for their (required) prison labor (such as cooking or serving food in the cafeteria or cleaning the trays, pots and pans and kitchen). On the one hand, prison inmates are still viewed by the Constitution (14th Amendment) and the law as being "slaves of the state" while serving their sentences, who can be forced to labor for free, or for the Federal BOP maintenance pay of $5.25 per month. In the 21st century this in an antiquated view of incarceration, which fails to address the financial obligations (specifically, child support) of incarcerated men (about 93 percent of prison inmates are men). If one does the legal research, he will find that this issue has actually been litigated a few times in the Federal Courts, but the inmates have always lost. These losses seem irrational, because of the way the Federal minimum wage statutes are written. They first cast a broad net over all workers, and then carve out a list of exceptions (such as private restaurant workers, who are paid #2.13 per hour, but own most of their money from tips). Notably, jail and prison inmates are not mentioned in the list of persons excluded from being paid the Federal minimum wage, so on the face of the statute they would seem to be included, under well-known rules of statutory construction. Yet, time and gain, Federal Judges have refused to find that the minimum wages laws apply to inmates. It's time for Congress to explicitly address this problem.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Apr 1, 2021 8:55:42 AM

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