Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg used prison labor to make calls for his presidential campaign, and now Governor Andrew Cuomo is using prison labor to manufacture hand sanitizer for the coronavirus outbreak.
Reading about this makes me feel sick because it is so exploitative.
Incarcerated people in New York State currently get paid between 10 cents and $1.14 an hour. All across our country, we use prison labor to respond to major crises.
In California, it was incarcerated individuals who worked as firefighters putting out the wildfires, and now in New York they are being used to respond to a major health crisis.
Our prisons are often not equipped to handle these public health crises themselves, as made clear last year by the jail in Brooklyn where people were freezing in subzero temperatures, falling ill and unable to access medical care when they needed it.
Incarcerated individuals do not get free medical care in prison. They often don't have access to the medicine or specialists that they need, and have to wait a very long time for an appointment and still have co-pays.
They have to pay for all "nonessential" items like toothpaste, deodorant, and other personal hygiene products. And often they are jailed for crimes that are racist and illegitimate, and so much of crime is associated with poverty to begin with.
We are not equipped to handle coronavirus outbreaks in our prison system, so why should the incarcerated be forced to handle ours? We are abusing their time and labor, and it is modern-day slavery.
We are abusing our neighbors. Access to mental and physical health care, ending the overcrowding, and moving towards a restorative justice system away from incarceration must happen.