Skip to main content
Resolutions & Amendments

30th International Convention - Las Vegas, NV (1992)

Prison Labor Programs

Resolution No. 10
30th International Convention
June 15-19, 1992
Las Vegas, NV


Prison labor is being used to produce and deliver a broad array of goods and services in both the public and private sector. At least twenty states have begun experiments to get private industry to use some of this imprisoned labor force. The use of prison labor in this manner raises important issues regarding which prisoners should be allowed to work, the purpose of that work, and under what kinds of conditions they should work; and


Other states have adopted sentence-to-service programs which are being used as alternatives to incarceration. Such programs require persons convicted of lesser offenses, such as misdemeanors, to perform services normally delivered by public employees; and


Permitting inmates to work as part of a skills-training program to prepare them to work in the private sector after their release from prison could enable inmates to earn money, some of which might go to their victims or be used to cover the cost of their incarceration. It could also have a rehabilitative effect on inmates and thereby lower rates of recidivism. But badly conceived programs often provide unfair competition and take jobs from the general population; and


Convict labor working in programs under the Private Sector/Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program is required by law to receive wages at a rate which is not less than that paid for work of a similar nature in the locality. However, employers often do not comply with the prevailing wage requirement of the law. Convict labor is thus used to directly compete with organized labor and drive down wages. The use of convict labor in this manner appears to violate the Convention on the Abolition on Forced Labor which prohibits the use of prison labor for economic development and which was adopted by the International Labor organization. Moreover, this Convention was ratified by the United States and will become effective later this year.


That this 30th International Convention opposes the use of prison labor programs to provide services normally delivered by public employees, including sentence-to-service programs; and


That the International union, councils, and locals are encouraged to investigate whether there have been violations of the International Labor Organization's Convention on Forced Labor and if violations are found, consider whether a complaint should be filed; and


That the International Union, councils, and locals encourage programs which train inmates for work in the private sector after their release, provided that such programs comply with prevailing wage requirements of the law, that there be no adverse impact upon organized labor, and that no program be implemented which would result in the displacement of employed workers.


Donald G. McKee, President
Dick Palmer, Secretary-Treasurer
AFSCME Council 61