Washington Court Says Private Inmate Work Illegal

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Washington State’s supreme court has affirmed that employment of inmates by private companies violates the state constitution, says the Associated Press. The ruling was hailed by businesses that claimed inmate labor gave rivals an unfair advantage, and by organized labor, which argued that prisoners took jobs from law-abiding residents.

One company affected is Omega Pacific, a maker of metal safety clips called carabiners, used in climbing, that has operated inside a prison west of Spokane for eight years. The company has three months to move, replace most of its work force, and restart outside prison walls. The company pays inmates an hourly wage ranging from $7.16 – minimum wage – to more than $9. For every dollar earned, nearly 70 cents are withheld for incarceration costs; crime-victim compensation; court fees, fines and restitution; a mandatory savings account, and prison debts.

Link: http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/d

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