Following the death of a prisoner in a workplace accident that occurred in October 2017 in an Alabama poultry plant, a US NGO has investigated the working conditions of US prisoners selected for work release programmes.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) estimates that dozens of businesses in the poultry sector in at least seven states have used 600 prisoners or more in recent years.
Like their non-prisoner ‘colleagues’, these prisoners face particularly tough working conditions. Production targets are regularly set at 140 carcasses per minute. Work rates like these result in multiple accidents. The sector has an injury rate that is almost double the national average, and 72 % of survey respondents confirmed having suffered serious injuries or illnesses linked to their work. Workers in the poultry sector fall ill six times more often than the average for the US working population. Among those workers assigned to disinfection tasks in poultry abattoirs, 30 % confirm that they have experienced respiratory problems. This type of work involves the use of numerous chemicals.
The NGO has calculated that, since 2015, there have been at least 24 incidents in the states of Georgia and North Carolina resulting in injuries to prisoners employed in the poultry industry.
The main benefit for prisoners of working in the private sector is the opportunity to earn an hourly wage, at least on paper. However, according to the SPLC, although minimum wages apply to prisoners, once costs and other deductions have been taken by the Alabama Department of Corrections, workers often find themselves with only 13 cents of every dollar earned.
For more information: ‘The Kill Line’