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Prison Jobs: Working Hard, Hardly Paid

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KALW / Uncuffed
Isaac Flores is a Health Facilities Maintenance worker at Solano State Prison. The work involves cleaning up after biohazard waste disposals like blood spills.

In California, incarcerated people legally have to work. You could be a clerk, a janitor, a podcast producer, or work in the canteen. Some of those jobs might be more appealing than others, but no matter the job, the rates are set by law. Another thing they have in common? The next-to-nothing pay.

In this episode, Uncuffed gets down to business about prison jobs and involuntary servitude.

So when you go back to society, you have a disadvantage in the things that are available to you, but yet you're spending all these years in prison using your labor, and that labor is not being used to help prepare you for the society you're going back to.
Steve Brooks

This episode was produced by Ryan Pagan and Anthony Ivy, with help from Ninna Gaenlser-Debs, Angela Johnston, and sound designer Eric Maserati-E Abercrombie.

This piece was brought to you by the team at Uncuffed. Our work in prisons is supported by the California Arts Council, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and donations from listeners like you. The producers fact-check content to the best of their ability. Content is approved by an information officer.

Follow @WeAreUncuffed on Instagram and Facebook 

Learn more, sign up for Uncuffed news, and support the program at www.weareuncuffed.org

Uncuffed Personal StoriesFrom The Producers Of Uncuffed
Ryan C. Pagan is a storyteller and multimedia producer raised in Riverside, California. He is currently the Program Lead of Forward This Productions at San Quentin State Prison. Ryan believes in changing society's perceptions of incarcerated people, and works to provide opportunities to at-risk youth.
Walter "Jay" Evans Jr. is from Palm Springs CA. Born in 1975, he has been imprisoned since 1995. During this term, he has written plays, acted in a Shakespeare class, and earned a paralegal certificate from The Blackstone Career Institute. His intent in working with Uncuffed is to learn as much as he can and take it into the free world. He has plans to earn a broadcast journalism degree, or take the bar exam. He has written model legislation, and is a contributor to the ACLU, Anti-Defamation League, and Initiate Justice.

Timothy Hicks is a journalist and sports editor from Oakland, California. His work includes print, videography, and audio journalism. Tim aspires to use his platforms to create change in the criminal justice system. He loves chocolate ice cream and Hershey's chocolate bars. After serving 18 years in prison, Tim is now a free man and is continuing his quest of journalism to give voice to change and life.
Anthony Ivy is originally from North Stockton, California. He is a producer for Uncuffed and was rcently released from prison after a 13 year sentence. While incarcerated, Anthony worked and produced many stories from the inside. Since Anthony's release, he is continuing the road to success from the other side of the walls.
Brian “bf” Thames has published five non-fiction books while incarcerated over the last 30 years. A pending 6th book advocating self-reliance and better decision making in potentially dangerous encounters is on the way. Learning languages is an exciting pastime for him. He’s become reasonably fluent in French, conversational in Spanish, and learned ASL during the Covid-19 pandemic. His favorite animals are Great Danes, and any variation of parrots/parakeets. Acquiring general knowledge and education about the world and existence tends to make him giddy.
An avid listener of radio, award winning podcaster, and published author, Bryan Mazza spends his time writing, teaching, and training service animals for those in need. A native of California, Mazza uses his experiences to help others and to shape his artistic perspective in his many endeavors in both radio and creative writing.
Anthony Caravalho is an award-winning journalist at San Quentin News and a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. He is passionate about advocating for the wrongfully arrested in the criminal justice system. Anthony is also the founder of Help Everyone Reunite Safely, which specializes in safe housing for survivors of sexual assault.
Steve Brooks is an award-winning journalist. He currently serves as the Editor-in-Chief of San Quentin News, and has written for several publications including Sports Illustrated and The Nation. Steve's mission is to use his voice to increase public safety and advance social justice.
Stories from inside California prisons