Arizona inmates to see pay increase if SB1002 passes state House

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PHOENIX – Inmates involved in work programs at Arizona prisons have an opportunity for an increase in their hourly wages with the approval of Senate Bill 1002.

The bill has passed through the Senate and will be continuing on to the House. The raising of the cap on compensation for certain prisoner work programs under the authority of the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) will be raised. If passed, it will go from 50 cents to $1.50 an hour, which will be a change that has not happened since 1978.

john kavanagh“This is the maximum allowable wage, they can pay less ... but the cap has just been raised,” said the sponsor of this bill, John Kavanagh (R-Dist.23).

The taxpayers will be saving money, the municipalities will benefit from the increase of the hourly wages and only the inmates in the municipal programs are hired by local governments.

“Everybody benefits, nobody objects,” Kavanagh said.

According to the bill, the work they take part in will be preparing them to get back into the workforce after they are out of prison. There are currently four different programs the inmates can be a part of: the Work Incentive Pay Plan, Work Based Education, Intergovernmental Agreements and Arizona Correctional Industries (ACI).

“Anytime an inmate gets a work opportunity here ... it is vital for them once they leave,” Communications Director at the Arizona Department of Corrections Doug Nick said, “Every able body inmate we have is expected to work in or out of the prison under supervision.”

The Work Incentive Pay Plan involves work on the prison grounds and the inmates’ pay comes from the prison itself. How much the prisoner receives depends on how much they work and how well the work is performed, determined by the director’s input. The bill points out that as of right now the pay inmates’ receive in this plan is about 30 cents and ADC does not have an intention to raise that wage.

The Arizona Correctional Industries is a business within the ADC and the prisoners involved in this wouldn’t be confined to working only in the prison, there are opportunities to work with other businesses. Inmates’ pay is received from the earnings of those businesses, according to the bill.

The Intergovernmental Agreements deal with the local governments and the ADC, forming contracts to have those governments pay the inmates’ for their work. None of the pay will exceed $1.50 unless the inmate is working in the Arizona Correctional Industries program.

According to the bill, authorities of the government will allow higher wages to be paid to inmates that are working. The money is decided in a process and the appropriate government authority will be the one paying them and will be held responsible.

“The net result for the prisoner won’t necessarily be beneficial if it has them earning more pay, with higher deductions,” said Donna Leone Hamm, judge (Ret.) director, from the Middle Ground Prison Reform.

Hamm’s concern was that the inmates who have the highest pay are with the ACI and these people make $3 or $4 because they pay for room and board. If this bill passes, the other inmates could have to start paying room and board as well because of the increase in pay, she said.

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