Arizona inmates work in a variety of jobs inside and outside prisons for wages ranging from 10 cents an hour to a minimum wage of $12.80.
Prisoner job assignments have a hierarchy and can be split into a four-tiered system based on skill and pay, according to a report resulting from a 15-month-long investigation by The Arizona Republic and KJZZ News.
The bottom tier represents 92% of the population. This includes cooks, janitors, store workers, yard workers, and even tutors with a pay scale of 10 to 45 cents an hour.
It takes prisoners about 20 hours of work to afford a bottle of shampoo, according to the July report.
The next tier up are the intergovernmental workers. They travel around the state performing maintenance work such as cutting grass in city parks and golf courses as well as maintenance for road departments, county governments, school districts, and universities. They are paid 50 cents to $1.50 an hour and there are around 1,000 of these workers. They represent 3% of the prison population in Arizona, according to the report.
The third tier is comprised of around 2,000 prisoners who work for Arizona Correctional Industries. This includes 700 who work in prison workshops that make products sold to the Department of Corrections and other government entities. They are paid 40 cents to $2 an hour.
The top-tier group is comprised of incarcerated workers who are leased out to private companies for their labor. They do a range of jobs, from salvaging aircraft parts to canning green chilies. They are paid $3.25 per hour up to the state minimum wage of $12.80.
Prisoners who make over $2 an hour are charged for room and board, which takes away 30% of their income, the report said. Prisoners may also encounter other expenses, including utilities, court-ordered restitution and child support.