Local Politics

Lawmakers want more money from prisoners

Posted June 19, 2009 6:20 p.m. EDT

— As they struggle to balance the state budget, lawmakers have begun eyeing prison inmates for extra revenue.

The proposed budget passed last week by the House calls for Correction Enterprises, which runs inmate manufacturing programs, to transfer $12.6 million to the state's operating funds in the 2009-10 fiscal year, which starts in July.

Correction Enterprises, which generates revenue from the sale of goods and services to state and local government agencies and some nonprofits, has transferred about $7.3 million a year to the state in recent years, said Keith Acree, spokesman for the Department of Correction.

Correction Enterprises also pays inmates for their work. In fiscal 2007-08, prisoners earned $4.9 million, Acree said.

The inmates can earn 40 cents to $3 a day doing various chores in prison or by working on a Correction Enterprises manufacturing project.

Unlike state workers, who had to take a 0.5 percent pay cut recently to help balance the current state budget, the pay rate for inmate labor wasn't reduced, Acree said. He added, however, that prisoners haven't seen their pay rates increased in 15 years.