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Minimum Wage for Cons Studied by Congress

In an effort to reverse a federal court ruling that would allow inmates holding prison jobs to be paid the minimum wage of $4.25 an hour, members of congress and state prison directors have launched an effort to reverse the ruling, in Hale v. Arizona, Nos 88-15785 and 89-15162, handed down by the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires minimum wage payments to employees, with exceptions specified in the law. The law did not list prison inmates as an exception.

If the ruling is not overturned, prison job programs may become too costly to support and will close, leaving idle inmates, risking unrest and violence, and damaging rehabilitation efforts [Editor's Note: you can see how harmful it would be for us if the state were to pay us something approaching a fair wage].

Since the ruling mentions such traditional prison jobs as manufacturing license plates, prison officials are concerned that all prison jobs would be affected, including those in prison industry programs which sell goods in interstate commerce, other prison industries jobs and even jobs in areas such as prison laundries, food service and janitorial work.

The ruling would be reversed if the Ninth Circuit court overturned it or by appealing the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Also, Senator Harry Reid from Nevada obtained a commitment from the Labor and Human Resources Committee of the Senate to hold hearings early this year on his bill, which would create a new exception to the FLSA for prison and jail inmates.
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