A legislative panel on labor policies unanimously approved a proposal on Thursday that would increase the pay rates of incarcerated workers who perform jobs within Connecticut prisons for as little as 75 cents a day under current policies.
The bill advanced during a meeting of the Labor and Public Employees Committee would ensure that inmate workers make between $5 and $10 per week and at least $35 per week for inmates with certain specialized skills.
If approved by the legislature, the bill would provide a modest pay raise to incarcerated men and women whose jobs range from day-to-day tasks like serving food and sweeping hallways to more technical functions like assisting maintenance teams with plumbing or repair work.
According to the state, incarcerated workers currently make between 75 cents and $1.75 per day, depending on the skill requirements of the job.
“It was alarming to me when I went to a conference this past winter to find out that Connecticut has one of the lowest paid wages for inmates in the country, not in the northeast,” co-sponsor Rep. Christopher Rosario, D-Bridgeport, said during a hearing last month. “I want to help change that.”
The committee approved the proposal on a consent calendar, meaning no legislator on the panel wanted the opportunity to oppose its progress. Although Thursday’s action sends the bill to the House, the state will incur some cost by providing pay increases making the bill certain to be referred to the legislature’s budget-writing committees.
The bill has proponents on both sides of the aisle and no one entered opposing testimony during the bill’s public hearing. Supporters included John Bowen, a retired Connecticut correction officer, who argued that the currently low wages sent prison workers the wrong message because their hard work does not pay.
“I know that there is an argument that inmates should pay the state for the cost of their incarceration,” Bowen wrote. “I get it, but I think that it is unrealistic and doesn’t do anybody any good. Showing inmates that work pays does some good.”