Interview: Resisting Prison Pay Cuts

From CFRC Prison Radio 

CPR brings you an interview about the latest Federal Court ruling on prison wages.

In 2013, the Conservative Government introduced a 30% pay cut to wages for work done by prisoners and called it a “food and accommodation tax” as well as eliminating incentive pay work done at CORCAN facilities, a government agency that contracts out prison labour to both the public and private sector. Prisoners are forced to purchase items such as stamps and personal hygiene products through government designated suppliers, and wages had already decreased sevenfold in actual purchasing power, as they hadn’t been increased since being established in the 1980s.

After exhausting internal grievance procedures, prisoners at Collins Bay Institution launched a work strike, which spread to federal prisons across Canada. Since 2014, several prisoners were fighting a lawsuit against the Government of Canada challenging the constitutionality of the pay cuts. At the end of January, a Federal Court in Ottawa threw out the case, ruling that prison labour falls under ‘programming’ and that prisoners are not in an employer-employee relationship with the Correctional Service of Canada.

CPR spoke with Jarrod Shook, an ex-prisoner who was a regular contributor to CPR while incarcerated at Collins Bay. He was a spokesperson for the strike in 2013, an applicant on the lawsuit, and he is now studying criminology at the University of Ottawa where he continues to be involved in prison-related activism. They discuss the history of the Inmate Pay System, resistance to prison pay cuts inside, the four-year lawsuit, and next steps in the struggle for better wages and dignity for prisoner workers.

Links:

Incentive to Scrutinize: Inmate Statement on Federal Prison Strike by Jarrod Shook (Fall 2013)
Resistance To Prison Pay Cuts by Jarrod Shook
(Spring 2014)
Federal Court Decision (PDF)
National Post Article on CORCAN
Journal of Prisoners on Prisons

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