SAN QUENTIN (CBS SF) — Inmates at San Quentin State Prison Tuesday were giving away $36,000 they have earned to five Bay Area crime victims’ service groups, a prison spokesman said.
Twenty-seven inmates who are part of the prison’s Joint Venture Program, which provides high-wage jobs for prisoners, are presenting checks for about $7,200 apiece to five local organizations, prison spokesman Lt. Sam Robinson said.
“At the end of year we try to bring some holiday cheer to various organizations,” Robinson said.
The Joint Venture Program was created statewide after the passage of Proposition 139, the Inmate Labor Initiative, in 1990. The legislation amended prison labor laws to allow prisons to set up inmate work contracts with private businesses.
The initiative mandates that 20 percent of the inmates’ total earnings go toward victim compensation.
The rest of the money goes in equal parts toward taxes, the inmates’ room and board, personal savings, inmates’ family support and an account at the prison canteen, Robinson said.
Since the law was created, some inmates have been able to work for private companies and earn wages comparable to the state minimum wage, which is $8 per hour.
The inmates at San Quentin make medical devices for Labcon North America, based out of Petaluma. They clock in at an on-site facility at the prison.
Robinson said inmates apply for the program and are only allowed to do the work for about two or three years to allow other inmates the opportunity to participate.
Most other jobs through the California Prison Industry Authority pay inmates anywhere from 30 to 90 cents an hour.
“Many guys inside, when given opportunity to give back to the community, it definitely does elevate their sense of well-being,” Robinson said. “They all realize they’ve caused some type of harm to the community.”
The donated money this year will go to in part to the Canal Alliance, the Center for Domestic Peace and the Sunny Hills Children’s Center, all based in Marin.
The two other groups receiving money are Oakland-based Bay Area Women Against Rape and the East Oakland Youth Development Center.
Representatives from the five organizations, which were chosen to receive the donated funds by San Quentin Warden Kevin Chappell, planned to be present at a check-presentation ceremony held at the prison late Tuesday morning. Labcon officials were also scheduled to attend, Robinson said.