Colorado prisoners deserve more than sixty cents a day, inmate says

reggie.keyes.205x205.jpg
Reggie Keyes.
Under the newly re-gilted Capitol dome, lawmakers are debating budget cuts and trying to wrestle pork into and out of familiar barrels. It's unlikely, though, that any of them are losing sleep over one burning issue that's been a source of constant grumbling in places like Ordway, Sterling, and Buena Vista: the shockingly low, low pay rate for state prisoners. Over the past decade, despite inflation, boosts in the minimum wage, and even some progress in the general state of sweatshops, Colorado's fixed rate for most inmate jobs has remained the same: sixty cents a day.

Unless you happen to have a number stenciled on your shirt, this may be a matter of supreme indifference to you; some people are outraged at the idea that convicted felons earn anything at all while they're reaping the whirlwind. But Reggie Keyes figures it would be not just compassionate, but a smart investment for the state to consider boosting inmate pay.

Keyes, an adjudicated habitual criminal serving 24 years on menacing and contraband charges out of Bent County, recently passed along an impassioned plea to the legislature and Governor John Hickenlooper on the subject. Keyes points out that state inmates earned a magnificent two bucks a day for their labors in the 1980s and 1990s, before Governor Bill Owens pushed for the sixty-cent-a-day cap. That not only drastically reduced the amount that inmates could pay in court-ordered fees and victim restitution -- the Colorado Department of Corrections takes 20 percent off the top of the paycheck for that -- but it made it harder for many to make ends meet, since the cost of canteen items such as toothpaste and shampoo continues to rise.

"Our current inflated canteen prices leave about two-thirds of Colorado's inmate population in dire poverty," Keyes writes.

colorado.correctional.industries.jpg
An image from the Colorado Correctional Industries website.
Less than 10 percent of Colorado's inmate population actually work in Colorado Correctional Industries, which manufactures furniture and bedding and offers vocational programs to inmates. Others have menial jobs in kitchens or as porters. But there aren't enough full-time jobs to go around, Keyes says: "Many are forced to survive on half pay or indigent pay, which amounts to only three to five dollars a month. Further, we are charged by DOC three dollars for every medical request and ten dollars for any emergency. We are rationed three rolls of toilet paper each month, which requires extreme conservation, or forces us to purchase at least one fifty-cent roll from the canteen each month. Which leaves us very little for canteen necessities such as basic hygiene, a few stamps and a pen and a tablet and envelopes. Since 2004 it has been our families that have been punished for our imprisonment and that have been burdened to provide for our care."

Traditionally, lawmakers and prison officials have been reluctant to expand opportunities for prison jobs, out of concerns about undercutting the private sector as well as historic exploitation of prison labor in the Deep South. But recidivism studies in several states suggest that prisoners who are given the opportunity to work in correctional industry programs are better equipped to find employment and less likely to return to prison. Programs like Colorado's are also largely self-sustaining and can even generate income for the state.

Keyes notes that he's banned from submitting a petition to Governor Hickenlooper concerning the lack of jobs and the pathetic pay rate. "We are prohibited from petitioning, organizing or assembly, because such is construed as a violation of the Colorado Code of Penal Discipline or as inciting a riot. But I would have no problem obtaining twenty to thirty thousand signatures from Colorado's imprisoned and impoverished."

More from our Prison Life archive circa January 3: "Is Colorado keeping inmates past their release dates?"

My Voice Nation Help
123 comments
whateveryousay
whateveryousay topcommenter

Reading Cognitive_Dissident's comment below where they quote the 13th Amendment should all make you think.

"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

They shouldn't be paid at all.

Naomi Dub
Naomi Dub

I'm sorry, doesn't he have a free place to live, free food, and doesn't need to pay for transportation. What's the money for?!

Daniel Shalik
Daniel Shalik

I always had the belief that you should send them all on a remote deserted island , drop off supplies once a month and let them fend for themselves.

Jan Guyer
Jan Guyer

Screw you! Who cares you didn't care about the victims of your crimes...

Beverly Jo
Beverly Jo

When my students and I are all provided with room and board, medical care, and educational facilities, I'd take 60 cents a day.

Sterling Meeks
Sterling Meeks

You mean JAMES EAGAN HOLMES? Yeah...what about him?

Lynn Voss
Lynn Voss

No money at all. They should pay the state.

Edward Casillas
Edward Casillas

What is the value of the work they perform? Pay them accordingly.

Sarah LeVesque
Sarah LeVesque

That's the way society works. A successful society. #johnlocke

Mica Haesecke
Mica Haesecke

Ridiculous. ...they don't deserve half the crap they get let alone pay....who the heck is running the show around here? ?? Our system is ass backwards.....

Derek MileHigh Nye
Derek MileHigh Nye

prisons are privatized for profit...not everyone locked up deserves to be there

Jay Baca
Jay Baca

I think the exception should be to the incarcerated that have children. They should make it mandatory that they work at the same rate of pay they received prior to conviction and also be ordered to pay child support.

Cognitive_Dissident
Cognitive_Dissident topcommenter

Lost me at "prisoners deserve." Now, it's possible a great many of them don't belong there, and that's a separate issue. Beyond that, I can't think of anything that says "prisoners deserve" that makes sense.

Lynn Stiles
Lynn Stiles

When the prison benifits monetarily from their work. The profits should be shared or it is slave labor. Then why let them out? It will deplete the work force... and why do prisons have work when we as citizens don't? SLAVERY

Jerry McAfee
Jerry McAfee

He gets free room and board - enough said!

Roni Torres
Roni Torres

Overthrow the government and start over?

Jared Theis
Jared Theis

I think most people here are missing the real issue including this article... prisoners should not get pay if they deserve to be there they also shouldn't get TV and other things that they do. Mercy and forgiveness is a joke to real criminals... but let's look at that issue, what is a real criminal? We are the most Incarceration nation in the world hands down in arguable fact. We have a vast majority of prisoners in prison for offenses that really are pretty petty. We have mandatory minimums and we have a three strike rule both have been proven to be inneffective policies and most are a result of a war on drugs which is one of the biggest failed policies ever especially from an economic standpoint. So no I don't think criminal prisoners should be paid anything let alone 60 cents but I think that we really need to look at the prison state that is the USA and find better policies in a justice system full of injustice.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

... squealed the lowlife fascist.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@whateveryousay    ... so therefore ALL prisoners of ALL crimes -- petty offenses, traffic, DUI, misdemeanors, marijuana crimes, felonies -- should be FORCED to work at HARD LABOR in the For-Profit Private prison industry.


Of course you morons fail realize that PRIVATE FOR-PROFIT prisons are using this free SLAVE Labor to create FOR-PROFIT products and services -- artificially cheap products and services that UNFAIRLY compete with products and services created by the hard working tax paying citizens and business owners in the real world who are forced to pay MINIMUM wages, plus unemployment insurance, social security, income taxes, sales and use taxes, etc.


The same ignorant whiners that complain about "illegal immigrants" taking minimum wage jobs from 'murrikans are too fucking stupid to see that the free SLAVE labor provided by for-profit prisons is a far greater threat to their pathetic low-grade economic existence.


Wouldn't it be hilariously funny if all the vile myopic vengeful haters who suggest that citizens in prison shouldn't be paid at all actually LOST THEIR JOBS / Businesses due to the unfair competition from the products and services created by slave prison labor?


LOL!

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

... so who's the victim in a drug possession crime?


Be specific, moron, and show your work.


DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

So check in to prison for your "room and board, medical care, and educational facilities" ... let us know how much you like it and the 60 cents per day.



whateveryousay
whateveryousay topcommenter

There work is worth three meals a day and a bed.


whateveryousay
whateveryousay topcommenter

Put down the pipe and back away from the computer.


DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Cognitive_Dissident  "Beyond that, I can't think of anything that says "prisoners deserve" that makes sense."


Try reading the CONSTITUTION you pig-ignorant asswipe.

whateveryousay
whateveryousay topcommenter

They do not have to work. They are not forced to work. They are offered the chance to work. If they choose to work it is not slavery.  Prisoners jobs are a privilege and not a right.  

Cognitive_Dissident
Cognitive_Dissident topcommenter

So, it's not what "prisoners deserve." It's more like most of them shouldn't be there.

Cognitive_Dissident
Cognitive_Dissident topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay @Cognitive_Dissident  Pretty sure the constitution says nothing about prisoners, though one of the civil war amendments notes that involuntary servitude is not necessarily disallowed in the case of imprisonment.

whateveryousay
whateveryousay topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay @Cognitive_Dissident  Remember, when the Constitution was written we still put people in stocks and prisons were infested with rats, fleas and disease.  Under the founding fathers prisons were more like gulags than you may care to admit.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@whateveryousay  ... so private sector jobs are "privileges" and not rights ... yet there is a national minimum wage.



DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@whateveryousay ... as jobs outside of prison are also -- how do you say "a privilege" -- and citizens are not required to accept the offer.


So why force a minimum wage on the free market?

whateveryousay
whateveryousay topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay @whateveryousay  I would agree to that.  I haven't seen anything that states prisoners are forced to work.  I have read that it is a privilege and they are not required to accept the offer.  


DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@whateveryousay ... so those that aren't FORCED to work at SLAVE Labor as part of their sentence should be paid at least the legal minimum wage for their voluntary labor in the for-profit prison industries, eh?



Cognitive_Dissident
Cognitive_Dissident topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay  Those are the amendments, which is why they call them that. 

Given that your response was to my mention specifically of them as amendments and that mention was with regard to rights they don't have according to those amendments, your argument is semantic trolling anyway.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Cognitive_Dissident <== does it hurt to be so stupid?


HipTip: the amendments to the constitution -- all 27 of them -- ARE part of The Constitution.



Cognitive_Dissident
Cognitive_Dissident topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay @Cognitive_Dissident  

That wouldn't be the constitution. That would be the civil war amendments to it. Further, it doesn't say "prisoners deserve" anything. It says they can be forced into involuntary servitude.


Come back when you're sane.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Cognitive_Dissident ... so the Constitution DOES mention prisoners and involuntary servitude.


Come back when you're sober and coherent.


DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@whateveryousay <== idiot too stupid to comprehend that for every slave-wage prisoner -- whether involuntary or voluntary -- who makes a product or provides a service it takes a job away from a private sector employee.


For every product sold by slave-wage prison labor, or service provided by slave-wage prison labor, a private sector business suffers financial loss and eventual failure as they can never compete against near free labor.



whateveryousay
whateveryousay topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay @whateveryousay  Nope. In free society the minimum wage laws apply.  In prison they do not.  Much like when you are incarcerated you do not have freedom of travel. So, your hyperbole is nothing but a flawed sense of entitlement.


When someone is incarcerated they lose many rights and privileges.  The right to free travel, interstate commerce, speech, the constitutional right to bear arms and in many cases the right to vote; just to name a few.  


No matter how much you stamp your feet you can't make laws and statutes apply that don't apply.

Now Trending

Denver Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

Loading...