Oppose SB 59: End legal Slavery in Pennsylvania

The for-profit prison system exploits prisoners by lending them out to private businesses that take advantage of the cheap labor. This hurts non-incarcerated Pennsylvanians by driving down wages and it hurts society in general by increasing the likelihood that prisoners upon release will reoffend.

What does SB 59 do?

SB 59 creates an authority made up of prison officials and business people who will apply for permission from the Federal Government to “borrow” prisoners for labor purposes. The authority will supervise the relationship between the prisoners and the corporations who are “borrowing” them. There is a clear conflict of interest here. Furthermore, 80% of the small amount of money that they earn will be taken from them and given to the Department of Corrections or the county jail.

How is SB 59 detrimental to Pennsylvania?

SB 59 takes tax payer money and uses it to pay for supervision of a free labor force for large corporations.  The prison has to provide security to watch the prisoners, and presumably, make sure they keep working, which makes it begin to look like a chain gang and means that we’re paying a portion of the business’ labor cost. How is that fair?

SB 59 does not align with the suggestions made by the Justice Reinvestment Initiative Committee. Prisoners will have to work for an undisclosed wage at undisclosed jobs.  The point of the prison work program is to provide inmates with the skills they need for gainful employment upon reentry. Rest assured these jobs will be low-skill and low-wage, the kind no one on the outside would ever do. How will that give prisoners the skills they need to get a job once they have served their time? It won’t.

SB 59 allows corporations to legally take advantage of slave labor. 80% of the small amount of money that the prisoners earn will be taken from them and given to the Dept. of Corrections and to a “Victim’s Fund” even if the crime they committed was a victimless crime. The prisoner also has to pay taxes on this wage, although it is unclear if they can file for a refund. In sum, one can be sure that the amount of money paid to the prisoner will be a pittance compared to how much the business will make out of this.  

Letter Campaign by
Tara Marches
Norristown, Pennsylvania