Peter Wagner, Executive Director
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Section III: The Prison Economy

Prison labor

  • Year slavery and involuntary servitude abolished by the 13th Amendment except as punishment for crime503: 1865
  • Year the Virginia Supreme Court declared that prisoners were "slaves of the state"504: 1871
  • Year the Universal Declaration of Human Rights passed the United Nations, giving "[e]veryone ... the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests"505: 1948
  • Year the Supreme Court upheld a North Carolina warden's ban on prisoners forming a labor union506: 1977
  • Number of prison and jail industries in 1998507: 2,500
  • Minimum estimate of annual value of prison and jail industrial output508: $2 billion

Prison labor in the federal prisons

  • Percent of able-bodied sentenced federal prisoners required to work in the prison509: 100%
  • Number of prisoner workers in UNICOR, the federal prison industries510: 22,560
  • Pay scale for federal prisoners who work outside of UNICOR in prison maintenance, in dollars per hour511: $0.12-$0.40
  • Minimum wage in Haiti in dollars per hour512: $0.30
  • Percent of federal prisoner-workers who work for UNICOR rather than in prison maintenance513: 25%
  • Minimum UNICOR wage, in dollars per hour514: $0.23
  • Maximum UNICOR wage, in dollars per hour515: $1.15
  • Number of prisons where UNICOR makes office furniture516: 18
  • Average hourly earnings of a non-prisoner U.S. worker making office furniture517: $13.04
  • Number of prisons where UNICOR makes clothing and textiles518: 22
  • Average hourly earnings of a non-prisoner U.S. worker in a textile mill519: $10.95
  • UNICOR 2001 sales520: $583.5 million
  • Amount purchased from UNICOR in 2001 by the Department of Defense521: $388 million
  • Amount purchased from UNICOR in 2001 by the U.S. Postal Service522: $21 million
  • Number of prisoners UNICOR projects will be in federal prisons in 2009523: 211,516
  • Number of prisoner-workers UNCOR plans on hiring in 2009524: 31,826
  • Percent of industrial orders delivered late, industry-wide525: 6%
  • Percent of UNICOR orders delivered late526: 42%
  • Percent failure rate of wire sold by UNICOR to the military compared to the military's next-worst supplier527: 200%

Prison labor in the states

  • Minimum wage in the United States, in dollars per hour528: $5.15
  • Average hourly rate paid at a prison camp in Nevada529: $0.13
  • Maximum wage paid to prisoner workers in dollars per day in Georgia and Texas530: $0
  • Most prisons that pay prisoners for work have a range of pay depending on the job. Average of the minimum wages for prisoners paid by the states, in dollars per day for non-industry work531: $0.93
  • Average of the maximum wages paid to prisoners by the states, in dollars per day532: $4.73
  • Lowest wage reported, in dollars per day, for prisoners working in private industry533: $0.16

This page is an excerpt from The Prison Index: Taking the Pulse of the Crime Control Industry (April 2003) by Peter Wagner, published by the Western Prison Project and the Prison Policy Initiative.

Footnotes

503 U.S. Const. Amend XIII.

504 Ruffin v. Commonwealth 62 Va. 1024 (1871).

505 Declaration of Human Rights, Article 23(4)

506 Jones v. North Carolina Prisoner’s Labor Union, Inc. 433 U.S. 119 (1977)

507 Joel Dyer, Perpetual Prisoner Machine, p. 18.

508 Joel Dyer, Perpetual Prisoner Machine, p. 19.

509 General Accounting Office, Prisoner Labor: Perspectives on Paying the Federal Minimum Wage, May 1993 GAO/GGD-93-98, p. 19.

510 UNICOR Annual Report 2001, 3rd unnumbered paged of the pdf file.

511 http://www.bop.gov/ipapg/ipaover.html#work

512 http://www.sweatshopwatch.org/swatch/newsletters/1_2.html (although Disney and others pay 12cents.)

513 UNICOR Annual Report 2001, 3rd unnumbered page of the pdf file.

514 UNICOR Annual Report 2001, 3rd unnumbered page of the pdf file.

515 UNICOR Annual Report 2001, 3rd unnumbered page of the pdf file.

516 UNICOR Annual Report 2001, p. 12.

517 Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2001, The National Data Book, Table 609.

518 UNICOR Annual Report 2001, p. 12.

519 Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2001, The National Data Book, Table 609.

520 UNICOR Annual Report 2001, 3rd unnumbered paged of the pdf file.

521 UNICOR Annual Report 2001, p. 9.

522 UNICOR Annual Report 2001, p. 9.

523 UNICOR Annual Report 2001, p. 13.

524 UNICOR Annual Report 2001, p. 13.

525 Christian Parenti, Lockdown America, p. 232.

526 Christian Parenti, Lockdown America, p. 232.

527 Christian Parenti, Lockdown America, p. 232.

528 U.S. Department of Labor Compliance Assistance — Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) http://www.dol.gov/esa/whd/flsa/ viewed January 25, 2003.

529 General Accounting Office, Prisoner Labor: Perspectives on Paying the Federal Minimum Wage, May 1993 GAO/GGD-93-98, p.19.

530 Corrections Yearbook 2001, p. 130-131, fn6.

531 Corrections Yearbook 2001, p. 130-131.

532 Corrections Yearbook 2001, p. 130-131.

533 Mississippi. Corrections Yearbook 2001, p. 130-131.

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