Wednesday, March 22, 2023
March 22, 2023

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Bill to pay incarcerated workers passes House Committee


OLYMPIA — The House Community Safety, Justice, and Reentry Committee voted 6-3 in favor of passing HB 1024, an act that would ensure incarcerated workers are paid state minimum wage, among other things.

“When I was incarcerated, I was forced to work graveyard shifts for less than $0.42 per hour,” said Rep. Tarra Simmons (D-Bremerton). “If you refused, you would be sent to solitary confinement or threatened with infractions that could lengthen your sentence or restrict your ability to participate in educational or recreational programs. For me, the possible loss of privileges meant that I would not be able to see my children, who visited every weekend.”

Simmons, a sponsor of the bill, was the first formerly incarcerated legislator in the United States and the bill would make Washington the first state in the nation to pay its incarcerated population minimum wage, a release by Washington House Democrats said.

In addition to requiring minimum wage, HB 1024 would prohibit the Department of Corrections from using infractions or punitive actions to coerce incarcerated people into working. The bill also modifies the amounts of deductions automatically imposed on incarcerated people’s income, the release states. These changes include doubling the amount sent to the crime victims’ compensation fund, doubling the amount that can be withheld for child support, and increasing the amount that can be deposited in personal savings accounts which cannot be accessed until release from DOC custody.

The bill was heard in committee on Jan. 10. It now heads to the House Appropriations Committee.

“This bill recognizes the fundamental humanity of incarcerated people and acknowledges that most of them will one day return to our communities,” Simmons said.