Inmates do jobs like preparing food, cleaning and lawn maintenance inside the prison, but they can make as little as 15 cents per hour because minimum wage does not apply to prisoners.
State Representative Joe Haveman, R-Holland, wants private companies to be able to pay prison labor at the same rate. He introduced a bill that would exempt private contractors of the state's prison system from prevailing wage requirements. The bill passed out of committee Thursday and now, an advocacy group is already speaking out.
"Private corporations have shown that any kind of savings they recoup from prison labor is not anything that gets used to save taxpayer dollars, it goes right back into the pockets of the CEOs and corporate management," said Todd Cook, director of We Are the People Michigan.
Cook also said the bill is in favor of outsourcing the state's prisons.
"State employees will be displaced potentially if the privatization effort would move forward," Cook said.
Rep. Haveman countered the argument with the following statement:
"This does not require any privatization or create an incentive to privatize; it simply clarifies the important issue of how prisoners are paid for jobs within the prison, regardless of who operates the facility."
He goes on to say that privatizing could be a future option to make state government more efficient and effective.
Under the bill, prison labor could be assigned to a private contractor to produce goods or services to be used only within a correctional institution, jail, or reentry facility.