Athens for Everyone opposes the use of unpaid labor by incarcerated workers because we believe all workers deserve a fair wage. The Athens-Clarke County Unified Government uses unpaid inmate labor to subsidize many of its departments, including the Solid Waste Department and Landscape Department. The mayor’s FY20 proposed budget continues this unjust practice. While the budget does allocate $150,000 to “support state inmates as they perform labor on behalf of ACCGOV” (ACC FY20 Proposed Budget, p. C-26), this is not a wage compensation for the about 229,000 hours of labor that inmates performed in 2018, an amount that is expected to continue or possibly increase according to this budget. Additionally, the “Corrections” portion of the budget also indicates a goal of steadily increasing the average daily labor value per inmate. This does not sound like “phasing out [the] inmate labor-for-free program” indicated in the FY20 Mayor & Commission Strategic Commitments and Goals (p. B-2).
Contact the mayor and your commissioner (or all of them) at:
Mayor Kelly Girtz: firstname.lastname@example.org
Patrick Davenport (District 1): email@example.com
Mariah Parker (District 2): firstname.lastname@example.org
Melissa Link (District 3): email@example.com
Allison Wright (District 4): firstname.lastname@example.org
Tim Denson (District 5): email@example.com
Jerry Nesmith (District 6): firstname.lastname@example.org
Russell Edwards (District 7): email@example.com
Andy Herod (District 8): firstname.lastname@example.org
Ovita Thornton (District 9): email@example.com
Mike Hamby (District 10): firstname.lastname@example.org
Here’s some suggested language:
Dear Mayor Girtz and Commissioner _______,
I am writing about the proposed FY20 budget for Athens-Clarke County to let you know that I am concerned about the continuance of unpaid inmate labor.
The $150,000 allocated to support incarcerated workers is not nearly enough to compensate for the hundreds of thousands of hours inmates perform for the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government each year. All workers deserve fair wages, and that includes the state inmates performing labor that benefits this community. Also, incarcerated folks’ outdoor and leisure time should not be tied to performing free labor, so we hope you will work with the appropriate entities to explore creative options for ensuring that our incarcerated population has ample outdoor and recreational time whether they are performing labor for ACC or not.
Additionally, the “Corrections” portion of the budget indicates a goal to steadily increase the average daily labor value per inmate. This does not sound like a “phasing out [of the] inmate labor-for-free program” as indicated in the FY20 Mayor & Commission Strategic Commitments and Goals.
The proposed budget also outlines an economic development goal of “livable wages for workers,” and there is no reason why this goal should not apply to our incarcerated population, as well. I encourage you to take seriously the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow that persists through the use of unpaid inmate labor. I urge you to follow through on your ethical commitment to end the use of unpaid labor by incarcerated workers and to provide fair wages for all workers.
Please address this issue as soon as you can. Thank you for all the work you do for our community,