Prison Inmates Forced to Do Dangerous Work for “Slave Wages”

Prisoner Labor Concerns

Inmates of the New York State correctional system have been performing dangerous jobs like asbestos removal for little compensation, according to a December 2022 article published by The Intercept.

Corcraft is the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision division responsible for hiring inmates for manufacturing jobs. The Corcraft website states: “We employ incarcerated individuals to produce goods while preparing them for release by teaching them work skills, work ethic, and responsibility.”

Public agencies, such as the New York Police Department and the State University of New York, purchase items produced by Corcraft.

The Corcraft website explains: “The revenue received from the sale of products and services covers the expenses associated with operating the program.” According to The Intercept, the revenue between 2010 and 2021 amounted to $550 million.

But The Intercept also reported that wages inmates received for their labor “range from 16 to 65 cents per hour and are capped at $2 per day.” The job titles inmates are given are varied and include “taxi and truck drivers, tailors, welders, nurse aides, plumbers, laundry operators, maintenance laborers, porters, mechanics, and various other industrial jobs, including digging graves and burying indigent people. In addition, incarcerated people perform jobs outside and inside prisons, including those required to keep facilities running, like dining, maintenance, repair, and health services.”

The Intercept further reported that the jobs prison inmates do could include hazardous asbestos and lead paint removal.

“It’s dehumanizing to pay people those slave wages,” said Lisa Zucker, a senior attorney at the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Department of Corrections spokesperson Thomas Mailey said that “incarcerated people participating in asbestos abatement services programs was akin to training for eventual release, and that the jobs followed federal workplace safety guidelines.”

According to information in letters inmates have sent to legal advocates, in addition to receiving meager wages, inmates are forced to perform these jobs by being threatened with punishment if they refuse, such as “retaliation against people who miss or refuse to perform work, in the form of assault and threats of relocation to more dangerous cell blocks.”

What Is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a bundle of fibers from six naturally occurring minerals. Because the fibers are durable, resistant to heat, fire, and chemicals, and do not conduct electricity, they have been used in many ways since the late 1800s and can be found just about everywhere.

Where Is Asbestos Found?

The following lists show a few applications of asbestos in common industries.

Building and construction industries:

  • Strengthening cement and plastics
  • Insulation
  • Roofing
  • Fireproofing
  • Sound absorption
  • Ceiling and floor tiles
  • Paints
  • Adhesives
  • Plastics

Shipbuilding industry:

  • Insulation for boilers, steam pipes, and hot water pipes

Automotive industry:

  • Vehicle brake shoes and clutch pads

Home use:

  • Garden products
  • Some talc-containing crayons

What Are the Hazards of Exposure to Asbestos?

When asbestos is disturbed, tiny fibers spread throughout the air and can get trapped in the lungs, causing damage that leads to difficulty breathing and even serious disease like mesothelioma. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer have all classified asbestos as a “known human carcinogen,” which means it can eventually lead to cancer. Among the diseases asbestos exposure is known to contribute to are:

  • Mesothelioma
  • Lung cancer
  • Cancer of the larynx

Because of the hazardous nature of asbestos, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) strictly regulates asbestos exposure and removal, particularly in the industries most affected, such as maritime, construction, and manufacturing.

How We Help Victims of Asbestos Exposure

Seek justice with the help of our experienced asbestos attorneys. Our asbestos law firm has represented individuals like you affected by asbestos exposure for over 20 years, aggressively fighting the corporate giants responsible for their dangerous products. If you or a loved one were exposed to asbestos or suffered from a disease caused by asbestos, like mesothelioma, we can help.

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That’s the first question everyone asks. The truth is it’s impossible to know. But we can tell you this. Waters Kraus Paul & Siegel has what it takes to fight against big corporate interests and win. That’s why we’ve taken more mesothelioma trials to verdict than any other firm. And that’s why we’ve recovered more than $1.3 billion for clients like you. Do you think you have a case? Contact us now to speak with an attorney.

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