Calling all SUNY students to support NYS Senate Bill S1623 & Senate Bill S3138

Calling all SUNY students to support NYS Senate Bill S1623 & Senate Bill S3138

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New York Social Action started this petition to SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson and

As an ever-growing collective of students attending SUNY Institutions, we are banding together to demand that our schools publicly support New York State Senate Bill S3138/Assembly Bill A1275, which would raise the prison labor minimum wage to $3.00 per hour, as well as New York State Senate Bill S1623/Assembly Bill 2500, which restricts the use of segregated confinement and creates alternative therapeutic and rehabilitative confinement options.

The issue of underpaid prison labor is deeply connected to our educational institutions. Our schools routinely purchase prison-made goods from Corcraft, a subsidiary of the NYS Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. Corcraft relies on underpaid prison labor to profit off the sale of products like classroom desks, chairs, and industrial cleaners. Corcraft averages $50 million in sales per year, while prisoners in New York State make an average of $0.46 an hour, or roughly $4.80 per week (Nicholas, 2017).


SUNY schools consist of nearly half a million students, making our state university system the largest and the most comprehensive in the country. Our size and diversity provide us with a unique opportunity for collective bargaining, while our colleges and universities boast their own impressive economic and institutional powers for creating change. We are asking students to exercise their foundational right to advocate, as we also ask the stakeholders at our respective institutions to leverage their own power, so we may all step closer to SUNY’s self-described brand attributes, including positive change, vision, empowerment, diversity, and responsiveness. 


Corcraft has “preferred vendor status” under New York State Finance Law (162), meaning SUNY schools are required to make purchases from them, so long as their products meet the “form and function” specified. Our concerns lie within the harsh reality that prisoners in New York State do not earn fair wages.  When basic necessities are not provided in carceral settings, the individuals working to purchase them should at least be paid a reasonable wage to afford these necessary items and not have to sacrifice external communication with loved ones for basic hygiene needs. 

Additionally, the majority of prison labor in New York State is forced, meaning a refusal to work is punishable with disciplinary action including solitary confinement, a practice linked to "grave risk of psychological harm" (APA, 2012). Inmates in New York state prisons are also forbidden to organize or unionize, further silencing their pleas for action and support. It is our collective belief that SUNY schools can and must leverage their institutional power to support the most vulnerable among us, including those incarcerated in New York state prisons. It is our size and influence that benefits from these Corcraft products which, in turn, makes it our responsibility to think critically about their source.


The vast majority of incarcerated individuals will be released back into communities across the state. On average, over 600,000 people are released from prison annually and three-quarters of them are rearrested within five years of their release (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2005). This is expensive for everyone and is detrimental to families and children everywhere. Mass incarceration contributes to the stark reality that over 5 million American children, or one in 14, have a parent in state or federal prison at some point in their lives (Wiltz, 2016). Parents often serve time far away from their families, making their reliance on expensive telecommunications even more important. 


Bleak recidivism rates are impacted by the herculean challenges parolees face when it comes to securing housing and employment post-release. If inmates were paid a more reasonable hourly wage while incarcerated, they would undoubtedly be in a better position following their release. Adequate wages would be safely secured in electronic accounts, enhancing financial literacy and money management skills. When we support our most vulnerable, we make our communities infinitely safer for everyone. 


Right now, Senate Bill S3138/Assembly Bill A1275, known as the Prison Minimum Wage Act, proposes a pay increase to $3.00 per hour for New York state inmates. Additionally, Senate Bill S1623/Assembly Bill 2500, known as Humane Alternatives to Long Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act, restricts the use of segregated confinement and creates alternative therapeutic and rehabilitative confinement options. They are both currently sitting in the New York State Senate Committee for Crime Victims, Crime, and Corrections. 

By signing this petition you are not only pledging your personal support for Senate Bill S3138/Assembly Bill 1275 and Senate Bill S1623/Assembly Bill A2500, but also asking your SUNY schools to stand with us in uplifting the needs of our most vulnerable populations.  

References

https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/10/solitary

https://gothamist.com/news/how-ny-prison-slave-labor-powers-a-50-million-manufacturing-enterprise

https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2016/05/24/having-a-parent-behind-bars-costs-children-states#:~:text=Staggering%20Numbers,according%20to%20the%20Casey%20Foundation

0 have signed. Let’s get to 200!
At 200 signatures, this petition is more likely to be featured in recommendations!