From the Hoya:

The panel, hosted in the Healey Family Student Center Social Room, also included David Fathi, director of the National Prison Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, and Arthur Rizer, national security and justice policy director at the R Street Initiative, a public policy think tank.

Marc Howard, director of the Prisons and Justice Initiative, moderated the conversation.

The panelists emphasized the power of educating incarcerated citizens with basic employment skills to fight recidivism and increase the likelihood of employment post release.

To address the problems with prison labor, Fahti said that state legislatures could amend minimum wage laws and other legislation to include wage rights for prisoners.

“The more prisoners are paid and protected just like other employees, the less risk that a desire for cheaper or more docile or more easily controlled prison labor will either undercut positions of free workers or distort the criminal justice system by creating a perverse incentive to maintain or even grow the prison population,” Fahti said.

Rizer, however, argued that the goal of prison reform is not to raise wages but instead to heavily focus on unemployment post release.

“It doesn’t offend me [to get paid $2 a day] because I think that’s part of your punishment,” Rizer said. “What offends me is [prisoners] got out, they could not get a job. For some reason, our society says that if you commit a crime, we are going to disinherit you from the American dream. That is the thing that we should talk about. Sixty percent of people that are released within one year are unemployed.”

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