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House of Representatives
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: April 13, 2015 02:53 PM
From: Representative Todd Stephens and Rep. Patty Kim
To: All House members
Subject: Reducing Recidivism and Increasing Restitution for Crime Victims

Representative Patty Kim and I will be introducing legislation to authorize joint ventures between correctional facilities and private industry to help reduce prison recidivism rates and increase the amount of restitution inmates pay.

This legislation would provide prisoners with substantive employment opportunities while also ensuring that prisoner labor does not replace the employment opportunities of non-incarcerated Pennsylvanians. Prisoners who volunteer for this program will be paid a competitive wage, which as a result, will: assist them with developing positive work habits that will aid them in securing and holding employment upon their release; allow them to pay a reasonable portion of the cost of room and board to the correctional facility; provide additional financial assistance to their dependents; and, most importantly, allow them to accept further responsibility for their actions by compensating crime victims.

For the sake of context, in 1979 Congress created the Prison Industry Enhancement (PIE) Certification Program. The program exempts certified state and local departments of corrections from federal restrictions on the sale of prisoner-made goods in interstate commerce. A total of 50 jurisdictions may be certified under the federal law. However, in order to become certified, each program must demonstrate that it meets the statutory requirements for program participation.

As such, this legislation establishes the Prison Industry Enhancement Authority, which is comprised of correctional officials, representatives from the business and labor community, representatives from the local government associations, as well as a representative from the Office of Victim Advocate. The authority will authorize the Department of Corrections to apply to the United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, for certification to operate a prison industry enhancement program and to assist other units of government seeking to participate in the program; adopt procedures for determining whether a prospective private sector prison industry complies with the requirements of the program; approve or disapprove proposals submitted by the department for prison industry programs; ensure continuing compliance with federal law and this act; and designate which services performed or articles manufactured by prisoners conform to program regulations and may be sold on the open market.

Upon approval of the authority, the Department of Corrections or a county correctional facility may enter into contracts with a private business or nonprofit organization to permit the employment of prisoners to perform designated work on prison property. The department or county shall remain responsible for the custody of the prisoners who are working for the private sector. Prisoners participating in the program shall not be considered state or county employees. A prisoner participating in the program may do so only on a voluntary basis and must consent to specific deductions for taxes, contributions to a crime victims’ fund, a reasonable portion of the cost of room and board, and support for their family. All deductions in total may not exceed 80% of a prisoner’s gross wages.

Minimum program requirements include consulting with local labor or business organizations that could be affected by the program; verifying with the Department of Labor and Industry that participation in the program will not result in displacement of employees in the surrounding community; ensuring that the program will not be applied to skills and trades in which there is a surplus of labor in the locality or will not impair existing contracts for goods and services.

This measure is supported by the PA Department of Corrections, the PA District Attorneys Association, the PA County Commissioners Association and the Office of Victim Advocate. Please consider supporting this very important measure.

Introduced as HB1414