PIECP, Prison Labor, Prison Industries Violations
Many state prison industry participants in the PIE program have violated the nine (9) mandatory provisions of the guidelines, and continue to do so daily. Florida has the most violations overall.
The reason for these continued violations are a failure to investigate allegations. Investigation rests with the oversight agency charged with overseeing the PIE program - the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA).
The Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs assigned PIECP program operations, oversight and investigative authority to the BJA. The BJA promptly outsourced this authority to a private non-profit organization, the National Correctional Industries Association (NCIA). The NCIA receives a grant from the OJP for such oversight. See: Oversight Authority link, to the left.
Primary violations are:
- Failure to contact state and local labor agencies to determine if there is a surplus of private sector jobs of the same description as those that will be used in the prison industry, i.e; welder, carpenter, machine operators, etc.
- Failure to contact local private sector manufacturers that make the same type of products or supply similar services. This contact is required to insure no private sector employees will be displaced by the prison industry operation(s) (see discussions page).
- Failure to provide inmate workers "prevailing wages" for their work. The prevailing wage requirement of the PIE program is mandatory. Prison industries utilize a program loop hole to avoid paying prevailing wages to inmates. This loophole is a provision in the program that allows for the payment of "at least the minimum wage" in those instances where the prison industry is unable to get a prevailing wage figure from the state OES agency, or where the minimum wage is the prevailing wage for a particular job description. Prison industry authorities have interpreted and adopted the "minimum wage" loophole as the standard for wages paid to inmate workers (see discussions page).
- Failure to pay inmate workers for all parts or products manufactured by them on PIE orders or products. In some instances, the prison industry authority has several industries that manufacture various sub-assembly parts that make up an end product, i.e.; chair frames at one facility, chair cushions at another, feet for the legs at another and packaging such as cardboard boxes at still another industry. Inmates at all of the sub-assembly industries are paid the standard prison wage for their labor - $.20 to $1.00 per hour - as the industry itself is listed as the "customer". Once the parts are completed the orders are shipped to the industry that generated the order for frames, cushions and packing materials. When received at the final industry, 8 to 10 inmates assemble all the parts into finished chairs, then pack them for shipping to a PIE customer. These inmates at the assembly industry are the only ones of the dozens who actually manufactured the parts to receive actual PIE wages.
- Failure to identify a PIE industry as such to the BJA. Some prison industries, such as Florida's PRIDE of Florida, are guilty of opening new industries and declaring them to be "service industries" for purposes of avoiding PIECP guidelines altogether. In 2002 PRIDE opened a Food Products industry at Raiford, Florida. The industry partnered with a private sector business in Georgia under the PIECP program to process and ship food products all over the U.S. The prison authority advised their counsel and the BJA that the processing only required their industry to accept bulk meats and grind them, quick freeze, pack and ship the products back to the partner in Georgia. Counsel responded that if this was the only processing they would be doing, and not adding other ingredients to make new products from the bulk meats, they were legal and the PIE wages and requirements did not apply to that industry. What the prison authority failed to reveal to their counsel and the BJA was that the bulk meat was ground up, seasonings, flavors, fillers and other ingredients were added and the processed meats were formed into chicken, beef and pork patties. Once the finished products were ready for shipping, they were not shipped back to Georgia, instead they were shipped all over the country to customers of the PIECP partner in Georgia. Inmate workers were not paid PIE wages for any of their labor until late 2007 (when PRIDE was forced to identify the industry to the NCIA and BJA as a PIE industry).
- Failure to pay inmate workers any PIE wages for their labor. The prison industry is required to identify job positions as "notable tasks" where those inmate jobs are necessary to assist to manufacture or manufacture PIE products. Instead, the prison industries often refuse to identify such jobs as Quality Assurance, Maintenance and janitorial as notable tasks, arguing that those positions are not really required in order to manufacture PIE orders (see discussions page).
- Failure to pay inmates prevailing or even minimum wages for their work while the inmate workers are "training". The BJA has already declared this procedure as violative of the PIECP Guideline requirements. Florida still operates in this manner, insisting that inmates who are training are not eligible for PIE wages, though the parts and products they produce are shipped to fill PIE orders.
- Failure to identify industry orders as "PIE orders". A prison industry - such as PRIDE - often times knows a bid is in the works for the purchase of a particular product by a PIECP customer. Prior to the finalization and acceptance of the PRIDE bid, the industry places an order for the products expected to be needed for the upcoming contract, and lists the industry itself as the customer. This is done all the time to keep inventory up to snuff. In the PIE case though, it is being done to avoid paying the inmate workers PIE wages. Instead they are paid the standard Florida prison wage of between $.20 and $.50 per hour to manufacture the products. Once the order is placed into inventory, when the PIE order is confirmed, the industry draws the products from "inventory" and ships them, thereby avoiding PIE wages entirely.
- Adjusting inmate hours worked to fit into the labor portion of a PIE order. Prison industries compete for the business of private sector consumers against private sector competitors who provide the same products or services. To provide the lowest bid, the prison industry cannot reduce the cost of materials or other controlling factors, but they can - and do - adjust the labor portion of the bid to get the order. Once production begins the inmate workers are instructed to turn in their hours to their supervisors on slips of paper instead of PIE time cards. The supervisors then compute the hours estimated for the production run and reduce the overall inmate hours worked to fit into the labor estimates for the entire production process. The corrected hours are then entered onto the inmate workers time card (see discussions page).
- Failure to follow PIECP Guidelines when making sales and deliveries of PIE products to private sector customers with in-state addresses. Prison industries argue that the PIECP guidelines only pertain to prison made goods shipped across state lines, see Title 42 USC 1761(c). In most states the only way in which a prison industry can partner with a private sector business or company, or sell in the private sector markets, is under the authority of the PIECP program. Without PIECP participation, such partnerships or sales are prohibited. However, prison industries continue to argue that if their products aren't shipped out of state, the PIECP requirements do not apply.