Minimum Wages for Prisoners: Legal Obstacles and Suggested Reforms

The growing literature on prisoners’ rights has not yet focused on inmates’ demands for minimum wages and the justification for such demands. This article explains why statutory minimum wage coverage should be extended to inmates, discusses the judicial treatment of prison labor and the minimum wage question, advocates adoption of legislation now pending in Congress, and suggests further legislative reform necessary to implement the minimum wage proposal. Many conditions in our prison system are undoubtedly more harmful and degrading than lack of meaningful wages. This article focuses on only one feasible reform, not on the priorities of prison reform in general.