In a recent interview with an 86 year old African American woman, she gives accounts of her migration from the south to California in 1954, before moving to California she was a cook for a white family making a whopping $27 a week. After relocating to California she worked in a Potato Chip factory making $69.50 every two weeks, which works out to be $34.75 per week: Again this was in 1954. Today reports are given that prison inmates in South Carolina according to the state Department of Corrections and reported by Huffington Post Business Civil Rights Activist Reverend Jesse Jackson, in one program, prisoners making desks and other office equipment for public agencies can make “a wage of up to 35 cents an hour.” In another program, the state negotiates with private customers, and prisoners earn from 35 cents to $1.80 an hour. And in the Prison Industry Enterprise Program, inmates produce goods for private employers ranging from apparel to cable wires. They are supposed to be paid the “prevailing wage,” and to not compete with private workers. They are allegedly paid from $5.15 to $10 per hour, but must pay for their “room and board,” and have up to 20 percent of their wages confiscated to repay their victims.
In California Soledad prisoners earn 45 cent an hour and can earn as much as $60 per month in a program claimed not to be in effect. Additionally California prison are said to export clothing made in prison to Asia. Federal law prohibits domestic commerce in prison-made goods unless inmates are paid “prevailing wage“. In government contracting, a prevailing wage is defined as the hourly wage, usual benefits and overtime, paid to the majority of workers, laborers, and mechanics within a particular area. But because the law doesn’t apply to exports, no California prison officials will end up in cells alongside their “employees”. California prison factories generate $150 million in sales each year, UC Berkeley report finds.
Reverend Jesse Jackson sounds the whistle with alarming statistics: “The U.S. locks up more than 2 million people, more than any nation in the world. One in 48 working-age men is behind bars. A disproportionate number — 40 percent — are African Americans. As Michelle Alexander reported in her book, The New Jim Crow, more black men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were in slavery in the 1850s.”
Leaving a prevailing question is this abuse of the prison system? If yes what is the solution? If not abuse why not? If by definition prevailing wage is defined as hourly wage, usual benefits and overtime paid to the majority of workers, laborers and mechanics within a particular area who earns $60 per/month in 2012 in any industry outside of prison?
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