Inmates in California prisons making 8 cents an hour, senator calling it ‘Modern Day Slavery’

In California’s prison system, there are roughly 94,000 inmates. Many of them have jobs, everything from manufacturing to food services. However, their salaries are 8 cents per hour.

Senator Sydney Kamlager, who represents California’s 30th Congressional District, wants to abolish what she calls ‘modern-day slavery’ in prisons.

"We should not be taking people's dignity away. We have heard stories of folks who were told that if they didn't do that particular work then they would either be put in solitary confinement or they would have some privileges revoked, and those are examples of modern day involuntary servitude," Kamlager told FOX 11. 

In March, Kamlager introduced Assembly Constitutional Amendment 3 (ACA 3), the California Abolition Act, which will amend the Constitution of California to end involuntary servitude in California.

"ACA 3 merely says that there should be some choice. It doesn't mean that you should be able to make $100,000 while you are in prison, but it certainly means that if you say you don't want to do a certain particular job that you shouldn't be thrown in solitary confinement or you shouldn't have other privileges that are revoked," the senator stated.

Prison labor, nationwide, is a multibillion-dollar industry. Companies benefit from cheap labor… but new legislation could change all of that. Colorado, Utah and Nebraska have already passed similar measures. 

What do Southern Californians think about ACA-3?

"They're human beings and they deserve the rights that we deserve and they made mistakes, but that doesn't mean that they need to be stuck in those mistakes forever," said one LA resident.

"I think eight cents an hour is better than zero cents an hour. And it's also probably more so to instill a sense of responsibility in the prisoners instead of a monetary reward. More like trying to make them more responsible," said another resident.

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Kamlager says it boils down to fairness and equity in the prison system.

"You go to prison because you participated in criminal behavior and the goal is to rehabilitate you, it's not to keep you there for long periods of time, so that folks can get free labor out of you," she exclaimed.

If ACA 3 is approved by the California legislature, the measure will be placed on the ballot next year for voters to decide.

Tune in to FOX 11 Los Angeles for the latest Southern California news.