Legal Corner: Work provisions in Title 15

by Cassie Pierson, LSPC Staff Attorney, CCWP Advisory Board Member
Several sections of Title 15 apply to work and education in prison. Section 3040(a) provides that, ?Every able-bodied person . . . is obligated to work as assigned by department staff and by personnel of other agencies to whom the inmate?s custody and supervision may be delegated.? (Italics added). Subsection (c) provides that it is the classification committee that makes the assignments.
However, while a prisoner is waiting for an assignment to a specific program or in cases where the desired program has been temporarily suspended or if the prisoner has not agreed to participate in a program activity or even in cases where the classification committee has reached an agreement on the prisoner?s assignment, ?any able-bodied inmate may be assigned to perform any work deemed necessary to maintain and operate the institution and its services in a clean, safe and efficient manner. Operational needs may always override a program assignment.? (Title 15 section 3040(d); Italics added).
When it comes to job performance, the prisoner is expected to, ?perform assigned tasks diligently and conscientiously,? and may not to pretend to be ill or otherwise avoid performing your duties or encourage others to avoid their assignments. Moreover, if the assignment involves typing, filing or handling nonconfidential information pertaining to another prisoner, the prisoner must comply with the state Information Practices Act and are considered a ?special agent? of the CDCR and does not have the authority to disobey instructions. (Title 15 section 3041(e)(1) and (2)).
The following chart shows the pay schedule adopted by the CDCR:

Skill Level Minimum/Maximum
Hourly Rate
Minimum/Maximum
Monthly Rate
Level 1
Lead Person
DOT skill level 9
$0.32 / $0.37 $48 / $56
Level 2
Special Skill
DOT skill levels 7-8
$0.19 / $0.32 $29 / $48
Level 3
Technician
DOT skill levels 5-6
$0.15 / $0.24 $23 / $36
Level 4
Semi-Skilled
DOT skill levels 3-4
$0.11 / $0.18 $17 / $27
Level 5
Laborer
DOT skill levels 1-2
$0.08 / $0.13 $12 / $20

A prisoner?s pay is higher if she is working in a Prison Industry Authority (PIA) job. 22 of the 33 prisons in California have PIA industries. At two of the women?s prisons, CCWF and VSPW, the PIA industries consist of: fabric products, dental lab, optical, crops, laundry, and support services. At CIW, however, the only PIA industry is fabric products. (See related stories on pages 1, 3, 5, 7, and 14).
Prisoners can earn the most money at a job through Joint Ventures. Joint Ventures was established to promote rehabilitation by giving prisoners an opportunity to gain work experience and skills training.
Prisoners are to be paid a ?prevailing wage?. However, their wages are subject to the following deductions: federal, state, and local taxes, 20% for restitution (if applicable), 20% for room and board, 20% for family support (but only if there is a court-order or statute requiring support or the prisoner chooses to send money to their family; if there is no court-order or the prisoner does not want to send money to a family member, the funds will be deposited in the mandatory savings account), 20% to a mandatory savings account under the control of the CDCR. Prisoners leaving the Joint Ventures program who have a savings account balance of less than $300 can have the money transferred to their trust account. All money earned is given to the prisoner upon release. For prisoners who are serving sentences of 15 or more years, the warden can authorize an early withdrawal of a portion of the money from the savings account if there is more than $6500 in the account.