Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday announced legislation that would raise the minimum wage prison inmates in New York to $3 an hour.
The bill would put New York on par with four other states that set $3 as the minimum wage for those in prison — Alaska, Kansas, Maine and Nevada.
Currently, inmates earn between 10 cents and $1.14 an hour for tasks such as cleaning, maintenance and manufacturing products.
Most people who are in New York state prisons are required to work six hours a day for five days a week. The last minimum wage increase for inmates was in 1993.
“Incarcerated people are human beings. They deserve to be treated with dignity and to share in the fruits of their labor,” said Sen. Zellnor Myrie, the chairman of the Senate Elections Committee. “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, and this legislation will change that. Justice for incarcerated people in New York is overdue.”
Lawmakers also pointed to expenses incurred during incarceration, such as phone calls and stamps and purchasing goods at commissaries.
“New York must lock up and throw away the key on the exploitive practice of condoning prison slave labor and restore the human dignity of men and women serving time in our prison system,” said Assemblyman Nick Perry. “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.”