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A03481 Summary:

BILL NOA03481B
 
SAME ASSAME AS S00416-A
 
SPONSOREpstein
 
COSPNSRJackson, Seawright, Meeks
 
MLTSPNSR
 
Add §43-a, amd §§170, 171, 177, 178, 184, 186 & 187, Cor L
 
Establishes a New York state prison labor board to create, monitor and enforce an equitable and rehabilitative system of prison labor; abolishes penal servitude by prohibiting the forced labor of incarcerated individuals; provides fair wages and treatment of incarcerated individuals; prohibits the use of the labor of incarcerated individuals for earnings which inure to the benefit of the state of New York, the government of the United States, any state of the United States, any public corporation, or any private shareholder or individual.
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A03481 Memo:

NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY
MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF LEGISLATION
submitted in accordance with Assembly Rule III, Sec 1(f)
 
BILL NUMBER: A3481B
 
SPONSOR: Epstein
  TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the correction law, in relation to establishing a New York state prison labor board to create, monitor and enforce an equita- ble and rehabilitative system of prison labor; abolishing penal servi- tude by prohibiting the forced labor of incarcerated individuals; providing fair wages and treatment of incarcerated individuals; and prohibiting the use of the labor of incarcerated individuals for earn- ings which inure to the benefit of the state of New York, the government of the United States, any state of the United States, any public corpo- ration, or any private shareholder or individual   PURPOSE: The Thirteenth Amendment to the 'Constitution of the United States ended slavery and involuntary servitude except as punishment for crime. Thus, while forced labor is outlawed in "free society", it is allowed in pris- on and jails. The Abolish Penal Servitude Act removes one of the last vestiges of slavery and recognizes that incarcerated individuals should not be compelled or coerced to work against their will.   SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS: Section 1 provides for the title of this bill. Section 2 amends Article 3 of Chapter 43 of the correction law to add a new section 43-a which creates the Prison labor board and establishes its organization, functions, powers, and duties. Section 3 amends subdivision 3 of section 170 of the Correction Law, as added by chapter 256 of the Laws of 2010 by defining the term "nonprofit organization" as one operated exclusively for religious, charitable, or educational purposes, no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual. The amendment expands the foregoing ban to include the state of New York, the government of the United States, to any state of the United States or political subdi- vision thereof, and to any public corporation or eleemosynary associ- ation or corporation funded in whole or in part by any federal, state or local funds. Section 3 also amends subdivision 3 of section 170 of the Correction Law by adding a new subdivision 4, which is composed of two paragraphs. Paragraph (a) ends involuntary servitude by stating that no prisoner shall be compelled to provide labor against their will by actual force, threats of force, threats of punishment, threats of legal coercion or by any scheme, plan or pattern intended to cause the incarcerated individ- ual to believe that, if the incarcerated individual did not provide such labor, that incarcerated individual or another person would suffer phys- ical or psychological harm. Paragraph (b) permits incarcerated individ- uals to commence a legal action in any court of appropriate jurisdiction for damages, including punitive damages, injunction relief and any such other remedies as may be appropriate together will all reasonable attor- ney's fees and costs, provided suit is commenced within ten years after the acts alleged to have violated subdivision 4. Additional subdivisions 5 and 6 are also added. Subdivision 5 allows incarcerated individuals alleging violations of subdivision 4 to seek relief in a court of compe- tent jurisdiction. Subdivision 6, paragraph a allows for a cause of action concerning alleged violations against any state or local correc- tional employee or officer to be brought within ten years after the violation took place. Paragraph b clarifies that immunity granted pursu- ant to subdivision 1 of section 24 of this chapter shall not extend to actions brought under subdivision four of this section. Paragraph c states that violations of these foregoing provisions constitutes suffi- cient cause for removal of such employee. Section 4 amends subdivision 1 of section 171 of the correction law to require that inmates who request employment are, to the extent possible, given an equitable opportunity for employment, and that jobs assignments are distributed equitably by the commissioner, superintendents, and officials of all penitentiaries. Sections 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 amend Section 177, Section 178, Section 184, Section 186, and Section 187 of the correction law respectively to add new sections that requires compensation for the labor of incarcerated individuals subject to those chapters be above the minimum wage. Section 10 provides for the effective date.   JUSTIFICATION: The 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner in History Heather Ann Thompson described forced prison labor as an "institutional descendant of slavery" and the associate director of the Human Rights Defense Center, a prisoners' rights advocacy group, defined prison labor as prison slave labor. Forced prison labor can be traced back to Black Codes where Southern states enacted the racist convict-lease system following the Civil War, which allowed former slaves to be rented back to their former masters. Even the courts endorsed the practice. For example, in 1871 the Supreme Court of Virginia referred to prisoners as "slaves of the state." Involuntary servitude is a violation of human rights and dignity. More- over, using labor as a scourge rather than offering the opportunity to work as a reward, deprives our corrections system of a tool to rehabili- tate incarcerated individuals. By extirpating this vestige of slavery, New York State will no longer be a participant in a practice that traces its origins to our greatest sin.   LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: S8851/A10919 of 2019-20   FISCAL IMPLICATIONS: None.   EFFECTIVE DATE: This act shall take effect on the one hundred eightieth day after it shall have become a law.
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