Ex-Prisoners: They Need Jobs Too

October 16, 2016

By Keffer Hirschauer LLP

From July 1, 2015, to May 1, 2016, the Indiana Department of Correction’s adult inmate population decreased from 27,200 inmates to 26,142. As the numbers suggest, incarcerated individuals often and regularly return to Indiana communities. And when they do, they often need and look for jobs.

No doubt, because of the need for departing inmates to have marketable job skills after they leave the prison walls, Indiana Code 11-10-7 (“Chapter 7”) contains provisions regarding the employment of offenders by private employers. IDOC “may establish programs for the employment of offenders by private persons” by entering into agreements with such persons for the establishment of facilities within the boundary of a correctional facility “for the manufacture and processing of goods or any other business, commercial, or agricultural enterprise.” Ind. Code § 11-10-7-2(a). An offender may be employed under such an agreement “only on a voluntary basis and only after the offender has been informed of the conditions of … employment.” I.C. § 11-10-7-3(b).

For example, the Correctional Industrial Facility has contained a brake shop within its prison facility. Adams v. ArvinMeritor, Inc., 48 N.E.3d 1, 7 (Ind. Ct. App. 2015), aff’d on reh’g, 53 N.E.3d 1182 (Ind. Ct. App. 2016). The brake shop itself is a private and for-profit commercial business on Indiana Department of Correction property. Id. Any employment at the brake shop by an IDOC inmate is a voluntary undertaking, and is subject to the needs and the requirements of the private brake shop. Id.

This week, the Indiana Supreme Court addressed a case addressing an inmate’s claim that the brake shop violated his right to be paid a prevailing wage as an inmate. Specifically, he asserted in his complaint that right by paying him at most $1.10 per hour when comparable work by non-inmates pays at least $11.71 per hour. Id. The Indiana Supreme Court disagreed and found that the inmate did not have a private right of action or the ability to sue under that statute. Adams v. ArvinMeritor, Inc., ___ N.E.3d ____ (Ind. October 12, 2016).

It remains to be seen whether this decision will increase or decrease IDOC’s use of its statutory right to have private companies operate inside its prisons, or the interest of private companies to conduct business inside those facilities using IDOC inmates. However, there is little doubt that the need to train the thousands of inmates who will be leaving Indiana prisons for the work force at large will continue to be a serious issue for IDOC and the State as a whole.

Contact us today if you have questions or believe your constitutional, criminal, or civil rights have been violated. We stand ready to provide our clients with trusted representation and accurate information regarding the law and its application to their individualized case. Act now and contact us today at (317) 857-0160.