By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News
The Alabama Department of Corrections won’t say what private businesses or government agencies its inmates work for, or how much they’re paid.
Alabama Daily News recently asked, via email, for a list of employers and wages for inmates at ADOC’s work center and work release centers.
“Due to confidentiality requirements, the ADOC is restricted from disclosing a list of private companies for whom inmates work or information pertinent to inmates’ wages,” an emailed response from the department said.
Providing the public employers would be too time consuming, ADOC said.
“After consulting within the department, it was determined that obtaining the requested information regarding the department’s partnerships with government agencies would be overly burdensome, as it would require significant research into individual inmates’ employment records across the state. We encourage you to submit an open Records request with our Research and Planning Division – however, please be advised that due to the burdensome nature of the request and associated potential financial costs, this request may not be fulfilled.”
According to ADOC, work release inmates are eligible to work for private civilian businesses in the community, can wear everyday street clothes and can work for a prevailing wage.
The ADOC also runs work center programs where inmates are required to wear white state uniforms and are eligible to work for local or state government entities. These inmates are not paid a prevailing wage.
The ADOC’s work programs have gotten attention in the State House this year because of legislation to require those convicted of violent crimes to wear monitoring devices when they’re off prison grounds.
The legislation was approved in the House earlier this month and moved to the Senate.
State laws says the Alabama Department of Corrections can adopt rules for allowing inmates to leave prisons for work purposes.
As currently written, the bill only applies to inmates working at private businesses. Senate sponsor Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said he plans to amend the bill to include those working for government agencies.
“That’s the intent of the bill, to cover all violent offends when they’re outside ADOC property,” House sponsor Rep. Matt Simpson, R-Daphne, said last week.
But the legislation is in question as the state grapples with the coronavirus. The need to social distance will dramatically reduce the length of the legislative session, killing many bills. Right now, lawmakers plan to resume their session in late April. It has to end May 18, per a constitutional requirement that a regular session only last 105 calendar days.
Work release: $15.9M in 2018
The work and work release centers often share prison campuses and are minimum security.
Convicted murderer Daniel Miner was a Work Center Program inmate when he escaped a Talladega County work center last month. Miner, 43, was captured days later in Morgan County. He was not assigned to an off-property job at the time of his escape, ADOC has said.
In January, work centers had 1,883 inmates, work release centers had 1,417, according to a monthly report from ADOC.
The department’s 2018 annual report says that work release inmates — those working for private companies — had a net income of $15.9 million. About $2.6 million in fees and restitution were paid from that amount. The ADOC facilities collected about $7.7 million.
Salary information for work center inmates, those working for government agencies, is not listed on the annual report.
Work on hold during crisis
Earlier this month, ADOC suspended work center and work release activities in an effort to keep the coronavirus out of its prisons.
“Protecting our inmate population from COVID-19, an unprecedented national health crisis, presents challenges across the correctional system, and all appropriate measures are being taken to address this situation,” ADOC spokeswoman Samantha Rose said. “While these preventative measures may cause temporary disruptions, such as to inmates’ schedules and routines, all precautionary actions taken by the Department are solely designed to ensure the continued safety and well-being of our inmate population, staff, and the public.”
Rose said because they house many low-level and low-risk offenders, work center and work release inmates have additional privileges including the ability to freely move about, go outside at regular intervals and pursue education interests through programming initiatives, among others.
Work release and work center facilities provide much more flexible environments than that of a major correctional facility, Rose said.