Pants Down: Prisoners Work Unpaid Wearing Sweatshop-Made Garb

Earlier this month, the Examiner revealed that the city outfitted its prisoners in jail pants manufactured in a Dominican plant purportedly guilty of a bevy of sweatshop violations.

In running afoul of the Sweatfree Contracting Ordinance, the city has been caught with its (presumably non-sweatshop) pants down. Did you know that San Francisco has a Sweatfree Procurement Advisory Group? Now you do. Ignore the SPAG at your own peril.

Left unsaid in the Ex, however, is the fact that prisoners — outfitted in duds produced by sweatshop laborers paid a pittance — are performing labor within the jail and not being paid at all.

The jail's "inmate workers" perform a variety of tasks, such as helping to prepare and distribute meals, remove food trays, clean up in the kitchen, laundry, and general cleaning. Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Susan Fahey confirms that they are not remunerated a cent. There may be no free lunch — but there certainly are inmate workers to deliver lunches for free.

"The inmates do not get compensated," Fahey says. But that doesn't mean that our incarcerated, unpaid floor cleaners are complaining. "Lots of people prefer to be doing that [so they can] be doing something. It gets you out of your daily routine. It's something to do."

She stressed that inmate workers are not forced to perform manual labor — this is a wholly voluntary position. And, unlike state prisoners, San Francisco shut-ins are not involved in any sort of official labor program. It's not exactly Scared Straight — but perhaps at-risk youths could be persuaded to do things differently if they learned that jail is so deathly dull that people actually volunteer to push a broom or clean off a food tray, just to have something to do.

Speaking of at-risk youths, that's who now staffs the San Bruno jail's 14-acre organic farm, which is designed not just to raise healthy food but to give the kids hands-on skills and a more rewarding experience than toting a tray. Neither prisoners nor at-risk youths, however, are sewing together their own pants. If a Dominican sweatshop raised the city's red flags, imagine what underaged/jail-produced clothing would do.

 
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dragon
dragon

Alot of the inmates work to earn better opportunities to eat... Also it's a way to pass time... They make it sound like the work they do is back breaking...

Smspirate
Smspirate

The City would do well to look into the Chicago Jobs Council - related programs called Growing Home (Urban Gardening) and The Cob Connection -

Guest
Guest

Pay? What about the free room and board?

justsomethoughts
justsomethoughts

Keeping prisoners busy, or the idea of how they get food, and shelter on the tax payers dime makes sense in initial logic.

The main issue is prisons for profits, and a huge issue is that if they can use prison labor for free then that gives them more reason to give outrages sentences for small crimes and in general jail terms that do not fit the crime. Then we have a system of slavery, and more jobs will go to the prisons because they will not need to be paid. This is not paranoia but the reality of the ongoing situation. Those sweatshop sweatpants not only came from another country which would break SF labor laws, but most likely they are charging a rate of a more expensive pair of sweatpants. This is paid with tax payer funds and then the for profit system makes a dishonest profit that has little benefit for the city and it's people.

It was explained to me that for example (the numbers are approximate): The jail buys bulk shipments of orange juice for $.05 a piece. Then they charge the tax payer $.50, which is what buying one of these cartons may cost alone in the store. .$45 cents of profit would be made, at the cost of the tax payer.

This is the real issue to be looked at in this article, not the treatment of the incarcerated.

Sfirish
Sfirish

I worked at San Bruno for a few years. The inmate workers were very happy to get off the tiers and live in a dorm. It did break up the mundane day.

angrygrizzly
angrygrizzly

Perhaps if they weren't in prison for committing crimes, they could receive fair wages for their efforts.

I'm not feeling any sympathy here. Especially since it's voluntary.

nazmunnaher
nazmunnaher

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ibuyufo
ibuyufo

Why should they get paid? This is punishment not club med.

Ivanmoseman
Ivanmoseman

What do you mean they are not compensated, isn't cable tv, room and board enough compensation

Jeff
Jeff

Of course they are being paid. They have free room, board, and medical care because they are incarcerated. All of that costs taxpayers considerably more than the wages they would earn doing the same amount of work if they weren't in jail.

 
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