One of the most important details when looking for a job is the amount of money being offered for the position. As inmates, one of the privileges lost is job hunting by salary. In fact at Herlong Prison Camp, the amount of money given to a working inmate is just about the same given to a third world country sweatshop employee. However minute the earnings were, workers were still encouraged to work their way to the top.
The department I was hired at was called Power House or GM6 and had a payscale with levels called grades. The leader or foreman was in Grade 1. They were responsible for managing projects. The number ones, as we called them, discussed project assignments with the COs (correctional officers) and determined the best way to manage it all. Those in Grade 2 (number twos) were the assistants to the number ones. They would get instructions from them and also were next in line if Grade 1 was unavailable. Inmates in Grade 3 and Grade 4 (number threes and number fours) would help wherever they were needed.
I experienced all of the grades when I worked at Power House. My shift started at 7:30 am and usually ended at 2:00 pm. The COs could have kept me and the other workers longer because they paid us for seven hours of work, however we only worked six hours with an hour break.
As a Grade 4, I made about seventeen dollars a month. Once I was able to show proof of my GED (or high school diploma), I became a Grade 3 and I made twenty-four dollars a month. When I was promoted to a Grade 2, I earned about forty dollars a month. When I finally made it to Grade 1, I worked hard. If I pleased the CO, I would get bonuses up to fifty percent of my base pay. Sometimes I could get double my pay because I worked several hours over my normal hours. I would work until seven at night or just after dinner. The most I made in any one month was eighty-three dollars.
I know it doesn’t sound like much, but in prison camp, good money is when an inmate made more than $40 a month. The pay can be hard to determine based off of my earning, so here are the pay rates for each grade.
The pay scale for inmate workers at Herlong Prison Camp is as followed:
Grade 4: $0.12 an hour
Grade 3: $0.17 an hour
Grade 2: $0.24 an hour
Grade 1: $0.40 an hour plus a 50% bonus for being the “lead.”
Some departments, like the Power House, tried to keep a small group of inmate workers. This enabled them to give the inmates the best possible learning experience and it also increased their pay. There was only a small amount of money approved for inmate pay. There was no way to go over budget until the COs had talked to their superiors to increase inmate pay.
Inmates don’t have the luxury of searching for better paying jobs and every cent in prison is helpful for a number of reasons. If you find yourself or your loved one entering into a federal institution, don’t become outraged over the pay. Stay positive and remember to be diligent in your work ethic. Even though it’s a low paying job, the same work ethic is required if you want to get and keep a job.