A bid to end the exploitation of inmate labor
Plus Inslee stacked $$ in December and and an update on things we're watching
Editor’s Note: Welcome to the inaugural edition of The Friday Observer, made possible by our expanded reporting capacity, AKA Tim Gruver, who is in turn made possible by our paid subscribers and the sponsors of the Re-Wire Conference. We expect the Friday edition, which is for subscribers only, to be a regular feature while the Legislature is in session.
Before we get to the meat of the newsletter, we have to cop to a goof in Wednesday’s edition. We reported that Gov. Jay Inslee’s $4 billion bond package for housing would require a supermajority in the Legislature, which is typically necessary for state debt. Turns out that it just requires a simple majority because it would go before the voters in November.1 Lawmakers haven’t submitted such a referendum to the people since 2010, when voters rejected a $500 million school-construction proposal.
Now, on to the news:
A bid to close ‘slavery loophole,’ pay inmates minimum wage
Didn’t the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution abolish slavery? Yes and no. It’s still legal as a “punishment for crime.” That’s part of how we get sub-minimum wage prison labor to produce cheap furniture and license plates and offset the costs of incarcerating people.
House Bill 1024, or “The Real Labor, Real Wages Act,” comes from Rep. Tarra Simmons, D-Bremerton, the only member of the Legislature to deal with the Department of Corrections as a landlord and as an “employee” making the roughly $1 per hour inmates get paid.
Here’s why you should care about this: It tees up the very real debate over the moral hazards of incarcerating people versus the idea of prison as, well, punishment.
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