New York State Senator Zellnor Myrie and Assemblymember Nick Perry announced on Wednesday their plans to introduce “Prison Minimum Wage” act in both houses of the New York legislature, which would raise the minimum wage to $3.00 per hour. 

The two Brooklyn lawmakers were joined by the bill’s cosponsors State Senators Alessandra Biaggi and Jessica Ramos, criminal justice advocacy groups and labor unions.

Incarcerated people are human beings,” said Senator Myrie, who represents the 20th State Senate District including Brownsville, Crown Heights, East Flatbush and Prospect Heights. “They deserve to be treated with dignity and to share in the fruits of their labor. The fact that New York’s incarcerated people contribute tens of millions of dollars in revenue to the state and haven’t gotten a pay increase in more than a quarter century is unacceptable.”

The majority of people held in NY State prisons are required to work six hours per day, five days per week. Like Lymus Rivera, a group facilitator of The Fortune Society, who was formerly incarcerated and working at a New York State prison, then earning a “maximum” of $0.16 per hour.

Inmates who work in New York prisons earn as little as $0.10 to $1.14 per hour for work ranging from cleaning to maintenance, Myrie said. They also manufacture a wide range of goods that are provided to municipal and state agencies — including desks, trash cans, furniture, textiles as well as every New York license plate — all for “Corcraft,” which is the brand name for the state-run Division of Correctional Industries.

Yet, incarcerated people in state prisons have to pay for phone calls, stamps and other necessities that are essential to maintaining a connection with their family and their quality of life. 

Assemblymember Perry, who represents the 58th District including East Flatbush, as well as portions of Canarsie and Brownsville, said New York must stop the ” exploitive practice of condoning prison slave labor and restore the human dignity of men and women serving time in our prison system.”

“Their labor powers an industry in our state which generates upwards of $50 million, but the indignity and immorality of our continuous violation of the human rights of these persons in our prisons is debasing to us as a great state and nation that respects and values humanity,” Perry added. 

Advocacy groups like The Fortune Society and the New York Civil Liberties Union applauded the efforts of the lawmakers.

“Fairer compensation acknowledges the dignity and value of the work of incarcerated people, and is a critical step toward realizing the promise of the 13th Amendment,” said Erika Lorshbough of the NYCLU. “No New Yorker should go without adequate compensation for their labor simply because they are involved in the criminal justice system.”

The bill was introduced to the Senate’s Crime Victims, Crime And Correction Committee. If passed by the state legislature, the bill would mark the first raise for incarcerated people since 1993, and bring the prison minimum wage in line with four other states: Nevada, Alaska, Maine and Kansas.

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Andrea Leonhardt

“Made in Germany,” Andrea Leonhardt is the managing editor for BK Reader. Andrea holds a bachelor’s degree in political science, with minors in American studies and education, and a master’s...

Join the Conversation

11

  1. That is ridiculous. If they hadn’t have broken the law, the wouldn’t be there. Then they could be out earning minimum wage.

  2. How crazy…If they get a raise or any money for working, it should go towards their fines-if any was imposed or towards their care…They put themselves there but we have to pay for them…Not fair at all…

  3. Are u kidding me it cost roughly 40.000 a year that us taxpayers pay to house these felons. As i make 30.000 a year what is wrong with this picture .

  4. im sorry but do people realize how much it costs tax payers to house inmates! They get help from many people, family and friends who supply them money and personal needs. i know what i speak because my son has been in the system on and off for years and you want to no something? im happy he worked for next to nothing so he could learn what it means to give back to so many that he took from. Its no different than volunteering and making a change for the better. They dont need a raise. They need to work hard for once.

  5. Maybe we should charge them for room and board, medical co-pays, and other services if they are going to be payed more. Or better yet don’t go to jail and get a real job and pay taxes like the rest of us.

  6. I think this is a great idea for inmates who want to show they can become skilled workers learning a trade and making some money so they can have money when they get out, Trades could be brought in to teach these men as well. These programs work as my father was in one during his incarceration at Indian Springs Nevada , about 25 of his 23yrs he worked restoring antique vehicles for the rich and famous becoming head of the tool room and producing beautiful restored vehicles that are on display at The Imperial Palace Hotel and Casino in the state of Nevada,He also paid his own room and board and child support and came out as a productive member of society buying his own home to live in and not burdening the system .our family unit ,loves him and all of his new grandchildren and great grandchildren love him ,, I hope this is implemented in more prisons as it produces good results ..

  7. why should they get paid they get 3 square meals free dentist free medical free schooling that’s more then some of our people get on the outside. they commit a crime they don’t deserve any amenities. by the way they get a bed and don’t worry about rent and bills.

    1. Yup. Three meals of mush; rice, potatoes, corn, white bread, a piece of cake, great for your heart & overall health. No wholesome fresh fruit or vegetables. Dental, extract the tooth, always, no fillings. Need partials..$200. Need anything for flu or chest cold…pay for it, with your 49 cents an hr. job. Along with your phone calls to loved ones, $8 a call, stamps, envelopes, toothpaste, deodorant, shaving equipment, soap to wash underwear, soda, water or juice. Heaven forbid, get ones GED or classes, so as not to become stagnant and to be able to get a job when released. . Ever try to sleep on a piece of metal with a plastic covering?
      Amenities?!
      Did you ever make a mistake? No, you’re holier than anyone.

      1. Viv, guess you went to prison in the wrong state because nys does have fruit, fills teeth, has laundries and washers and dryers on units with laundry soap. Everything you said is just BULL SHIT. If you want someone to cry for you you better call someone that gives a shit. And the phone call wont cost you 8.00

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