New jail work system unfair to prisoners

Tulsa Sheriff Vic Regalado is currently in the process of deploying a new jail work system. In this system, people in jail will be able to work outside of the prison. Through this system, convicts will receive two days of their sentence or $25 dollars towards their potential fines for each day of work.
This system is currently being reintroduced after a convict in 2015,working for the Sheriff’s department, stole synthetic marijuana from the office in an attempt to smuggle it back into the prison. Regalado told the Tulsa World that the inmates will have three options, “kitchen labor in the jail, maintenance at the Sheriff’s office or helping prepare for the Tulsa State Fair.”
There is a fine line in jail work between gainful employment and state-approved free labor. I think this system is incredibly dangerous and must be watched over with extreme caution.
Regalado argues that the program will be helpful for both citizens and convicts. The benefit for citizens is that the work done by convicts will help to beautify and enrich Tulsa. This work will help provide services for Tulsa without job opportunities being taken away.
However, convicts in some way do benefit from the deal. The convicts will receive shorter sentences or lesser fines but also will gain skills they can use in the future. For example in the kitchen, the convicts will learn culinary skills as well as the knowledge on how to run a restaurant in the future.
The Sheriff’s department hopes that inmates receiving this type of job training will lower the rate of recidivism.
Regalado states that this program, “segues nicely into the diversion movement in terms of getting non-violent offenders out of jail. For those individuals that financially cannot fork over the fines that have been levied on them, it gives them an opportunity not to just sit in jail and do nothing. It gives them an opportunity to take it into their own hands.”
In response to potential worries about crime rates rising, any potential applicant to this program goes through a system of checks by jail officials. These applicants have to be non-violent offenders and have no prior history of violence, contraband or escape.
They are also not allowed if they have been involved in any potential jail security breaches during their time. These checksare followed by a rigprous application process that spans the jail system.
While on the job, convicts are also watched over by officials to make sure they are actually doing their job. Every 30 days, each job site will receive a written evaluation on the success of the program. Through all these precautions, it is hoped that no issues, such as the one in 2015, will happen in this new system.
However, it is important to remember that jail work systems have a very negative history. From the chain gangs of early prisons to the selling of cheap labor to willing companies, jail labor has not always been about helping out inmates. It is still a constant problem across the United States.
For example in Texas, convicts are forced to work in labor farms from dawn to dusk to produce agricultural products.
According to the Texas Department of Justice, “Every offender who is physically able has a job in the prison system. Offenders are not payed for their work, but they can gain privileges as a result of good work habits.” If they are working outside the perimeter fence of the jail, armed guards on horseback are constantly watching over them.
If someone fights against this system, they are forced into a cell for 24 hours without their private property. This is a clear form of state slavery that undermines the idea of the “justice” system.
In order to effectively and ethically work inmates, jail workers should be paid a decent wage that corresponds with the amount of work being produced. They also should not be forced to work in inhospitable conditions from dawn to dusk with little treatment for their physical needs.
This system also needs to be one where people are given the choice of being apart of this system. The new system in Tulsa is better than ones used in other states across the country but still needs work. The major problem with the system currently is the low wage. Instead of around 3 dollars a hour that is currently the plan, it would be favorable to pay a minimum wage.
The current work system proposed by Regalado is promising but is caught on a series of issues that could hold it down from being truly helpful to both the convict workers as well as the Sheriff’s office.

Post Author: Nathan Hinkle