by Keith Sanders
Many state prison agencies have in-house for-profit companies that utilize the labor of guards and prisoners to provide products and services to private companies and other state agencies. Not surprisingly, such public-private partnerships are often accused of corruption.
Take Arizona Correctional Industries (ACI), for instance, which is owned by the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry (DCRR). All state prisoners are required to work, but most hold prison jobs that pay shockingly little — ten to 35 cents per hour. However, of the 33,430 prisoners the state held at the end of November 2022, about 2,000 work at ACI. It’s considered a plum assignment, thanks to relatively generous pay. But what prisoners earn is just a fraction of what ACI collects for their work.
The same is true of guards assigned to ACI. According to contracts obtained by Arizona Republic, private companies contracting with the agency are charged $38.18 per hour for guards escorting prison workers to job sites. So what does DCRR pay those guards? Only $20.98 to $27.29 an hour — a difference of as much as $17.20 hourly.
When asked to explain the discrepancy, DCRR declined, deferring the question to the state Department of Administration. That agency chalked up the difference to non-wage costs — “employee-related expenses [that] include insurance, taxes, welfare and pensions.”
But Mindi Kraicinski, who served on the board of the union representing state prison guards before retiring in 2021, said that DCRR “is not acting in the interest of its employees.”
“[I]t’s stealing, plain and simple,” she said.
The union’s current leadership did not offer any comment on how its members were paid by ACI, except to say that they are conducting their own internal investigation.
Unfortunately, no such union exists for Arizona’s prisoners. They, too, have been cheated out of wages by DCRR. According to the Arizona Republic and another local news outfit, The Prison Sell, ACI charged client companies the state’s minimum wage of $12.90 an hour for the labor of prisoners. But it paid them as little as $4.25. The difference was pocketed by DCRR.
As regular PLN readers know, America’s carceral system is a money grab. Not only do multimillion dollar corporations vie for a piece of the profits but so do states, which are just as unconcerned as the private prison operators with the prisoners — and sometimes even the guards — that they cheat.
Source: The Arizona Republic
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