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Prisoner's Paradox - Forced Labor and Uncompensated Injuries

NCJ Number
New England Journal on Criminal and Civil Confinement Volume: 10 Issue: 1 Dated: (Winter 1984) Pages: 123-146
J T Campbell
Date Published
24 pages
Establishing inmate worker-injury compensation programs would be consistent with the goals of rehabilitation and decreased recidivism and would improve working conditions within prisons denial of compensation contradicts the objectives of inmate labor and the theory supporting workers' compensation.
Following a discussion of the objectives of workers' compensation acts and the events which led to their enactment, the article examines the evolution of prison labor and the theoretical basis for such labor. Next, the judicial and statutory reasons for denial of compensation to prisoners under existing workers' compensation acts are explored. A practical and theoretical justification for compensating work-injured inmates is presented, followed by an analysis of existing plans which provide inmates with compensation and suggestions on the manner in which inmates should be compensated for injuries sustained in the course of their work assignments. Denial of compensation to inmates injured while working in prison offers the disturbing result of not compensating one who may be forced to labor without choice as to working conditions, while persons receiving compensation in work outside of prison receive workers' compensation under the conditions of voluntary labor and choice of working conditions. The effects of a permanent disability are at least the same if not worse for prisoners as for free laborers. Denial of compensation to inmates does not conserve resources but merely allocates the costs to those who neither have control over the institution nor directly benefit from prison labor. Under the suggested program, only inmates who incur long-term or permanent disabilities would qualify for benefits after release, and benefits would be revoked if reincarceration occurred. Compensation would be limited to work-related injuries. Lost time should be compensable to maintain the status quo of the inmate, and the statutory percentage available to free laborers should be extended to inmates. A total of 168 footnotes are provided.