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AZ Lawmakers to Ponder Prisoner Pay Raise

PHOTO: Arizona lawmakers will consider a bill in the upcoming legislative session that could triple the hourly wage of prison inmates. Photo courtesy of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
PHOTO: Arizona lawmakers will consider a bill in the upcoming legislative session that could triple the hourly wage of prison inmates. Photo courtesy of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
January 5, 2015

PHOENIX – Inmates serving time in Arizona prisons could get a pay raise if state lawmakers approve a bill being considered in the 2015 legislative session that starts Jan 12.

State Senator-elect John Kavanagh, who has served multiple terms in the State House, introduced Senate Bill 1002, which would update how much inmates can be paid for jobs within the prison and with cities, towns and counties.

The Fountain Hills Republican says the current rate, which pays up to 50 cents per hour, was set in law in the 1970s.

"The Arizona Department of Corrections, confronted with the problem of inmates not wanting to work any more for governments, came to me and said, 'We need to raise the wages because they haven't been changed since the '70s, and the pay is so low that the inmates don't want to do the work for these local governments,'" he relates.

The bill would raise inmate wages up to $1.50 per hour.

Kavanagh says inmates can earn that and more now by doing work for call centers and other companies that contract with prisons.

He says the local governments want the higher wages so that they can better compete for inmate laborers who do landscaping and other jobs.

Kavanagh says he expects strong support for the bill from both sides of the aisle.

"Not only will Democrats like it because it gives prisoners more money, but Republicans will like it because it will make more money available for crime victims who are getting restitution from criminals," he explains.

The Arizona Legislature convenes each year for a 100-day session that starts on the second Monday in January.



Troy Wilde, Public News Service - AZ