L.A. councilwoman seeks to ban city from making purchases from prison labor

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez introduced a motion today that would prohibit the city of Los Angeles from purchasing goods manufactured and services provided by prison labor.

The motion calls for the disclosure of all products, including food, made by an “exploited labor” force to consumers, Rodriguez said.

“Creating systemic change requires us to reevaluate all areas where we sustain practices meant to suppress communities of color,” Rodriguez said. “We must end profit-driven prison systems and expand investments in youth education and career development to end the cycle of poverty, inequity and injustice.”

Rodriguez said most inmates in the United States perform skilled and unskilled labor for less than $1 per hour. Although the 13th Amendment in the U.S. Constitution abolished slavery in 1865, a clause provides for involuntary servitude for convicted prisoners as a punishment for crime.

The councilwoman said this exemption enables the exploitation of prisoners.

Rodriguez said the trend of buying items made by prisoners is growing in the United States in both state and federal penitentiaries, and contracting out prisoners to the private sector is growing at a faster rate.

The councilwoman said prison labor can include building office furniture, answering customer service calls, manufacturing consumer goods, farm work and fighting fires. In California, tens of thousands of incarcerated men and women work in the prison system.

In the recent wildfires, California employed about 3,100 inmates to provide support to state and federal firefighting agencies.

Rodriguez’s motion will return to the City Council for review in the coming weeks, she said.

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