Do incarcerated workers in Washington deserve to be paid minimum wage?

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House Bill 1024, the "Real Labor, Real Wages Act" was proposed in December, by State Representative Tarra Simmons, (D-Bremerton).

Representative Tarra Simmons-Facebook
Representative Tarra Simmons-Facebook

The bill would raise incarcerated workers' wages to Washington state's minimum wage of $15.74. Most people incarcerated with the WA Department of Corrections earn less than $1 an hour. The most an inmate can make is up to $2.70 an hour.

Simmons is the first formerly incarcerated person to be elected to the WA State Legislature. In 2011, she was sentenced to 30 months in prison. According to

“When I was incarcerated, I was forced to work graveyard shifts for less than $0.42 per hour,” said Simmons. “If you refused, you would be sent to solitary confinement or threatened with infractions that could lengthen your sentence or restrict your ability to participate in educational or recreational programs. No one should be coerced into providing their labor, and Washington should not profit from involuntary servitude. This bill recognizes the fundamental humanity of incarcerated people and rejects the use of slavery as a punishment.”

If passed, HB 1024 would make the Evergreen state the first in the country to pay minimum wage to its incarcerated population. You can read more about the Real Labor, Real Wages Act proposed by Simmons, here.

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