The Texas prison system has in excess of 150,000 prisoners housed in approximately 130 facilities across the state, all but a few are forced to preform slave labor under harsh and inhumane conditions and are in no manner compensated for their work, even though approximately ten years ago the State Legislature passed into law, the Inmate Pay Incentive Program, that would allow the Texas Correctional Industries to pay prisoners for their labor, provided that approximately 80% of the total pay was disbursed to the prisoners family, victims of crime, costs of confinement, costs of courts and fines. This was conditional however upon the Texas Correctional Industries board to implement or not. To date no such program has been initiated, even though the law remains intact. Paying prisoners would allow for relief of the Burden on Tax Payers to support the massive prison Industrial Complex in Texas, assist the families of prisoners and provide funding to the victims of crime and most importantly, allow prisoners to develop viable work habits and self esteem from being able to support themselves, moreover, Texas could expand it's range of sales to other entities in areas that would not afford competition with outside businesses.
In a recent 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Ali v. Johnson 259 F.3rd 317 (5th Cir 2001) The Court held that the 13th amendment does not forbid the forcible enslavement of prisoners, regardless of a Statutory gap in Texas Law in relation to prison slavery. Between 1989 and 1995 Texas Statutes did not authorize sentencing prisoners to hard labor as part of their punishment. Statutes before and after did authorize the imposition of such slavery. See: Tex.ev.Civ.Stat. Art. 6166x (repealed 1989); Tx.Gov.Code § 497.090 (1995) (repealed in 1999 and replaced by Tx.Gov't Code § 497.099(a).). In Ali, the court noted that no other court has held otherwise, and dismisses as dicta language in Watson v. Graves 909 F,2d 1549,1552 (5th Cir 1990) that said prisoners not sentenced to hard labor retain their 13th amendment rights. Since the 13th amendment was enacted, courts have referred to prisoners as Slaves Of The State. Texas Prisons are one of the very few in the nation that refuse to pay prisoners, ostensibly seeking to look Tough On Crime, making Texas prisoners "Slaves" in the literal sense of the meaning. The Texas Prison Labor Union advances the common sense premise that Texas prisoners should be paid and that by paying Texas prisoners you not only assist in a real and meaningful manner to promote rehabilitation but lesson the heavy burden placed on the Tax Payers of the State and also assist the families of prisoners. It is a win/win situation and so long as the type of work prisoners do is controlled, there is no adverse effect on free world labor. For more information about TPLU position on Labor, see our Basic Platform.
Ricky L Long Founder
source Johnson 259 F3d 317 (5th Cir 2001)