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Akim Lattermore , Ohio

Impacts of Prison Labor

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I am 47 years old and a mother of two. I have four grandchildren. At the age of 19, I was sentenced to 5-25 years in Ohio’s Reformatory for Women. Every day of my 5 year sentence, I worked the mandatory hours set forth by the institution. Some weeks I worked beyond 40 hours depending on the events or situations going on in the prison.

In Marysville, the best job was working in OPI. OPI sewed uniforms and flags at that time and pay was $24 per month. Other jobs included clerical, housekeeping, janitorial, cooking, laundry, commissary, and running the recreation department with pay of $17 per month. Needless to say, I worked whatever job they said I had to work.

When I started serving my sentence, I was forced to leave behind my family and children. As a mother and loved one, I was no longer contributing into the Social Security retirement of my children or the younger generations coming behind me. The big issue is that I worked a job day after day just like every other able-bodied person in prison and no one was paying into our Social Security. That was 21 years ago.

I was released and learned that I had not gained enough points towards my Social Security through my work history and if I became disabled, I would only receive $100 a month. Five years of work equals 10 points towards your Social Security. I had received none for a solid five years’ work. Corporations are cheating their way out of paying their fair share. The products that are manufactured in prison by prisoners are sold for ten times the value of what it costs the prison to manufacture them. Social Security is not being funded as it was intended because the workforce has now been relocated inside the prison industrial complex. How can society pay into social security if we continue to allow companies and big corporations to profit off of the free labor of prisoners?

The profiteers of slave labor still persists in America. Mass incarceration is real and has an impact on the Social Security retirement of all people. In the end, the poor and working-class people are continuing to pay taxes they can’t afford and the big corporations are exempt. We need to fund Social Security as it was intended; through work no matter where the work is located.