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Is there such a thing as minimum wages or labor rights for prisoners? I know that slavery is legal in the United States if it involves prisoners, but I am wondering if there are certain rights prisoners enjoy as forced labor. What are some of the rights that prisoners enjoy as forced labor in the United States if they have any?

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The primary source of minimum wage and hours laws for the United States as a whole is the Fair Labor Standard Act. Generally courts have held that prisoners are not employees within the meaning of the act.

The amount paid for prison labor is a matter of state correctional system policy, and some states, such as Texas, pay nothing to prisoners for their labor, while others pay a tiny fraction of the federal minimum wage.

The main rights of prisoners who are detained pursuant to a conviction is to be free of physical harm arising from deliberate indifference to their well being, or to be free of punishment beyond what they were sentenced to for their crimes. Prisoners who are detained awaiting a trial have greater rights.

I know that slavery is legal in the United States if it involves prisoners

The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not prohibit this but some state constitutions (e.g. Colorado's), and some state laws, do prohibit it. So the law in the United States is not uniform on this subject.

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  • "to be free of physical harm arising from deliberate indifference to their well being" - Really? Where in the United States do prisoners have this right?
    – Vikki
    Aug 15, 2021 at 1:00
  • @Vikki It arises under the U.S. Constitution, particular the 8th and 14th Amendments. See, e.g., illinoislawreview.org/online/…
    – ohwilleke
    Aug 16, 2021 at 20:11

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