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Alabama Raises Rates Charged for Prisoner Labor

In October 2007, the Alabama Department of Corrections (DOC) began charging other government entities for prisoner labor, such as work crews that pick up highway trash. With the start of the next fiscal year on October 1, 2009, the DOC will raise the rate from $10 per prisoner per day to $15. An exception is the Alabama Department of Transportation, which has been paying $20 per prisoner per day – a rate that increased to $50 last February.

The driving force behind the rate increase is a $43.3 million shortfall between the DOC’s annual budget and the amount it actually takes to run the state’s prison system. “What we’ve been trying to do with this is ... raise revenue to meet our operational costs,” said DOC spokesman Brian Corbett.

The prisoners who do the work apparently will not receive a raise above the $2 per day they are paid for their labor. Why do they toil for such meager compensation? “It’s a better feeling compared to being inside the prison,” said Childersburg Work Release Center prisoner Samuel Grayson.

In FY 2007, the DOC provided other government agencies with 103,000 man hours of prisoner labor per month. That spring, DOC Commissioner Richard Allen received permission from Governor Bob Riley to start charging for prisoner work crews. The DOC collected about $15,000 in the year’s last quarter.

In FY 2008, the DOC made almost $1.2 million for the more than 1.3 million hours of prison labor it provided at the rate of $10 per prisoner per day. Paying minimum wage for that amount of work would have cost $6.9 million.

“An idle mind is the devil’s workshop,” said Childersburg Warden Rodney Huntley. “So work in and of itself helps to keep the camp calm and keeps issues down.” Plus, as the state has found, charging $15-50 per day while paying prisoners $2 per day is also quite profitable.

Source: Birmingham News

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