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The ongoing legal case
Baltimore is currently embroiled in a class action lawsuit, Kenny v. Wilson, which seeks to establish whether incarcerated individuals are entitled to minimum wage under the Fair Labor Standards Act for work performed while imprisoned. According to Law360, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals previously ruled against wage protections for incarcerated workers but advocates are continuing to fight this decision.
NACo backs Baltimore’s position
In its amicus brief, NACo argues that if incarcerated workers were to be granted minimum wage, it could have major budgetary impacts on local correctional facilities and governments across the country. They estimate costs of tens or even hundreds of millions to comply. NACo asserts this ruling could set “an unsustainable precedent” that interferes with “local control over core criminal justice policies.”
Debate over incarcerated worker rights and impacts
The amicus brief underscores the complex debate around paying incarcerated workers minimum wage. Supporters argue it promotes rehabilitation and prevents unfair exploitation, but opponents argue it could be cost prohibitive.
Arguments for incarcerated worker pay
Proponents say work programs help reduce recidivism by teaching skills and responsibility. Without pay standards, some see the current system as a loophole allowing unpaid labor. Supporters also argue rights should not end at prison gates.
Concerns about implementation costs
However, others note most prisons operate on tight budgets and implementing minimum wage could force major cuts or layoffs. Facilities may end some programs rather than absorb wage costs. Local governments also argue they never intended to employ incarcerated individuals under wage law.
This case will likely continue addressing these competing perspectives around when basic labor protections should apply to incarcerated populations and h