An interesting article detailing the way California subjects its, lets be honest, mostly male prisoners to unsafe and exploitative working conditions titled CALIFORNIA BLAMES INCARCERATED WORKERS FOR UNSAFE CONDITIONS AND AMPUTATIONS states the following:
IN SEPTEMBER, AFTER months of organizing via smuggled cellphones and outside go-betweens, prisoners across the country launched a nationwide strike to demand better working conditions at the numerous facilities that employ inmate labor for little or no pay.
The strike, which spread to dozens of institutions in 22 states, briefly called attention to a fact about prison labor that is well-understood in America’s penal institutions but scarcely known to the general public: Inmates in America’s state prisons — who make everything from license plates to college diploma covers — are not only excluded from the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on slave labor, but also exist largely outside the reach of federal safety regulations meant to ensure that Americans are not injured or killed on the job. Excluded from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s mandate of protecting American workers, these inmates lack some of the most basic labor protections other workers take for granted.
This vacuum of oversight causes the labor performed behind prison walls to be doubly invisible because it excludes inmates from federal record-keeping rules requiring non-prison employers to report serious job-site injuries to the federal government.
Yet injury logs generated by the California Prison Industry Authority (CALPIA) — the agency in charge of overseeing the prison work programs in the country’s second largest prison system — provide a rare window into the varied dangers that face inmate laborers. Since 2012, inmates in California have reported more than 600 injuries while working for as little as a 35 cents an hour, according to the documents obtained by The Intercept. The logs contain a wide range of job-site harms, from fingers being smashed in steel molds or sucked under sewing machine needles to less serious maladies like carpel tunnel syndrome and other common overuse conditions.
In some severe cases, inmates’ appendages were amputated after being crushed or severed in machinery. “[The inmate’s] sleeve became caught in gear and pulled hand into assembly,” one log reads, “resulting in amputation of r. hand.”
There’s really nothing to be surprised about here. Society is geared to extract male labor. The prison system is just one of the many ways in which it is done at a discount rate. Sure, these men have been convicted of crimes, but they have a right to, at the very least, safe working conditions, especially when they are getting paid pennies for their hard work.