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Corrections Employees Get Big Bonuses for Inmate Low Wages

by Deedra Abboud in Mindset, Political, Social Views
July 2, 2020 0 comments

Inmates who work in construction, egg harvesting [Hickman Farms] and other jobs for Arizona Correctional Industries (ACI), a division of the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) and a prison work program, are paid anywhere between $2.00 and $5.25 an hour – with private companies paying ACI the rest of the state-mandated minimum wage of $12 per hour.

Supporters say the program teaches inmates the value of work.

Detractors say it’s legalized modern-day slavery.

Arizona state law only requires ACI pay inmates $2 an hour.

Hickman’s Family Farm has used Arizona prison labor for 25 years.

Clint Hickman is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Hickman’s Family Farms.

Clint Hickman also receives full-time compensation as the elected District 4 Supervisor on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. [Suzanne Story is a write-in candidate for District 4 in the August primary.]

In late March, due to coronavirus concerns, corrections officials announced they would suspend outside prison work crews with the exception of Hickman’s Family Farms.

140 female Arizona Department of Corrections inmates who have been working at Hickman’s Family Farms will continue their jobs raising baby chicks, helping with vaccination, and ensuring eggs are well-stocked on grocery store shelves. 

Hickmans’ and the state of Arizona have agreed that these women will also live on the farm full time, including sleeping there, instead of returning to the prison each evening.

With female inmates now working and sleeping at Hickman Family Farms to ensure the rest of us have plenty of eggs on grocery store shelves, will Hickmans’ deduct the “room and board expense” as well?

The women are staying in a new, 6,000-square-foot building with air conditioning and bunk beds, Glenn Hickman, president and CEO of the company, told The Arizona Republic in March. 

Last week, at least five Arizona prison inmates assigned to live and work onsite at the well-known Hickman’s Family egg farm have tested positive for coronavirus, and remain under quarantine and medical monitoring at the farm.

“The inmates are on top of each other, literally, they’re in each others grills,” said Carlos Garcia, executive director of the Arizona Correctional Peace Officers Association, who first confirmed the cases to ABC15. “If these inmates had it, they’ve all been exposed. They may not be infected, but they’ve all been exposed.”

“You have emailed Mr. Hickman’s government email. This topic isn’t a part of the county’s responsibility. In the future, please don’t use his government email address if you have questions about his family business. You need to reach out to the Department of Corrections regarding DOC inmates,” Supervisor Hickman’s chief of staff responded to an email inquiry.

Arizona law addresses appearances of conflict of law as well as conflicts affecting decision-making. A refresher might be in order.

Are 24-hour guards and medical monitoring at the farm a savings or expense for county tax payers?

And speaking of expenses…

The Arizona Correctional Industries (ACI) prison work program provided 2.8 million hours of inmate labor to companies, resulting in a nearly $6.7 million profit, a slight increase from last year.

Meanwhile, ACI bonuses hit record levels.

Seven employees of ACI received bonuses ranging from $12,000 to $57,000.

The largest bonus in the state, $57,438, went to the Luis Carlos Esparza, a sales representative whose base pay is $35,000 a year. 

Six other ACI employees received bonuses ranging from $12,171 to $44,070.

Brian Radecki, chief executive of ACI, which is a division of the Arizona Department of Corrections, received a $12,171 bonus, in addition to his $110,000 salary.

Records show at least 52 Corrections employees associated with ACI received $384,221 in bonuses last year, averaging $7,389 — more than five times the average incentive pay for the 16,000 state employees who received bonuses in 2019.

Inmates may be learning the value of work while they’re being price gouged by the Criminal Justice system, but ACI and the ADC have found a legal way to milk the Criminal Justice cash cow system for themselves.

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