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Lawmaker proposes higher minimum wage for NY inmates

A bill that would raise the minimum wage for inmates in state prisons is moving through the New York State Senate.

The Prison Minimum Wage Act would raise the wage made by inmates from its current level to $3.00 an hour. On average, inmates in New York state prisons earn approximately $0.52 an hour; some earn as little as $0.10. States such as Nevada, Alaska, Maine, and Kansas already have a requirement for inmates to be paid $3.00 an hour.

The bill would require any inmate to be paid the new wage, regardless of whether they work in a prison, for a non-profit organization, for work release, or a residential treatment facility.

Inmates manufacture license plates, janitorial supplies, and office furniture through their work at Corcraft. Corcraft, an organization within the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, employs approximately 2,100 inmates at 14 different facilities, according to a 2014 NYS DOCCS report.

In the bill, New York State Senator Zellnor Myrie (D-20) referred to forced prison labor as an “institutional descendant of slavery”.

“New York State must do better,” a section of the text of the bill reads. “Our prison system should not be one which is focused on punishment; rather, it should be dedicated to rehabilitation. The overwhelming majority of inmates are released after they have paid their debt to society. By providing inmates a minimum wage of $3.00, it will afford them the opportunity to have earnings when they are released, allowing them the ability to better re-integrate into society, potentially reducing the recidivism rate, making New York a safer place, and demonstrating that New York State will no longer be a participant in act which attributes its origins to our greatest sin.”

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