Inmates in Maryland earn just $ 0.17 an hour for voluntary work and training in prison, a grant that a legislature gives in support of laws that require the state to pay more compared to “slave labor”.
Del. Terri Hill (D-Baltimore and Howard) aims to bring the scholarship for all inmate labor volunteers as close to the minimum wage as possible, help them save money while incarcerated, and enable them to re-enter society without Having to rely on their families – or other criminal activity that could land them behind bars again – for financial support.
“This bill seeks to enable Maryland to leave the traces of slavery and peonage behind,” Hill said in an online Judicial Committee hearing.
Senator Joanne Benson (D-Prince George’s) presented Bill SB0194 to the Senate Finance Committee late last week.
In 2020, inmates employed by Maryland Correctional Enterprises in a prison or warehouse made no more than $ 1.16 an hour without a $ 0.01 increase or longevity allowance, although inmates relied on it to leave their prison complex for release to work deserved the minimum wage in the program’s most recent annual report.
In prison, inmates are required to purchase stamps, toiletries, and phone logs on their own, said Kimberly Haven, who worked for Maryland Correctional Enterprises during her own incarceration, on her Jan. 26 testimony to help raise inmate wages.
If inmates cannot rely on their wages to purchase these items, they may turn to outside family support or “sideline activities,” which Haven explains as a barter system in items such as cigarettes that are “inevitable” into criminal activity Run prisons.
Haven said inmates had to choose from a handful of rehabilitation programs while incarcerated, including school, work on the prison grounds, and work for Maryland Correctional Enterprises – the most preferred.
“There’s not just ‘push your bunk’ and do your time,” said Haven.
Raising prison wages to the current Maryland minimum wage – which will reach $ 15 an hour by 2025 for employers with 15 or more employees – would cost the state more than $ 18 million in 2022.
Chief Administrative Officer Mark Rowley, on his Jan. 26 testimony, said the additional spending would bankrupt Maryland Correctional Enterprises, which paid for inmates’ use of materials, employed civilians working on the program, and covered other manufacturing costs.
He told Capital News Service that Maryland Correctional Enterprises had been “misrepresented as an employer,” adding that the program’s focus is on outcome or rehabilitation, not income.
Volunteers who volunteer four to five days a week in furniture restoration, printing, textiles, meat production, laundry service, or license plate manufacture go to various government institutions, including the University System of Maryland Campus, according to the program’s annual report.
Inmates are entitled to four months’ imprisonment for each year they work for Maryland Correctional Enterprises, Rowley said.
The program pays current wages to a handful of inmates who work in Prison Industry Enhancement (PIE), through which the program contracts with private industry.
Of the 821 inmates Maryland Correctional Enterprises employed in 10 state facilities in 2020 – a pandemic-related decrease from 1,516 in 2019, according to the program’s annual report – only eight worked in the PIE program.
In 2020, the PIE program generated a total of at least $ 29,823, of which nearly 30% was used for the room and food of inmates, according to the report.
Hill’s bill, HB0102, would prohibit the Department of Public Safety and Law Enforcement from deducting room and board costs from all inmates’ wages, but inmates would still have to pay court fees, child support, reimbursement and other offenses or family members. associated costs before you can save.
Stephen Sanders, CEO of Maryland Correctional Enterprises, said in his testimony that his organization believes that “current compensation rates are reasonable and allow MCE to remain effective and efficient”.