Investigative series uncovers questionable practices involving Arizona’s prison workforce

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A new investigative series put together by both the Arizona Republic and KJZZ has uncovered questionable practices that involve the use of Arizona’s prisons workforce. The series focuses on an poor treatment of prisoners and how much money the state and others are making off prison-laborers. Joining us on Arizona Horizon is Joseph Darius Jaafari.

Joseph Darius Jaafari Background

According to Jaafari’s LinkedIn profile, he is an investigative reporter digging into documents and data around incarceration and police. His work can be seen in New York Times, Rolling Stone, Gothamist, The Atlantic, VICE, New York Post and other international publications.

What got this projected started?

Jaafari and his team originally wanted to set out to cover private prison contracts and look further into the situation. This type of project was supposed to be a small project but it ended up being much longer than expected.

“We had originally just wanted to do a small project about ubiquity of private prisons contracts because we have known that a small number of private businesses were using prisoners. We just wanted to dig a bit deeper” said Jaafari. He continued, “What started out as a small project, we started scratching at the surface and it turned out to be a 15 month project because it turns out that it’s quite vast across the state as far as how many private companies use prisoners.

How much do prisoners make?

A state law was put into place that requires prisoners to work unless an individual was except due to medical reasons. There are three tiers of work that prisoners will get placed into for type of work they will conduct. “There was a select number that we focused on that was 2,000 prisoners who get paid anywhere from $4.25 an hour, up to above anywhere near the states minimum wage” Jaafari mentioned.

That may seem like a fair shake just by looking their compensation, but actually there’s a lot of deductions that you don’t see in their payment.

“On its face that sounds great right? People are getting paid the states minimum wage, but what happens is the fact that all these deductions get taken out of their pay. What we see is that, the number of prisoners; majority of prisoners actually only end up making ¢50 per hour while these companies are profiteering off of that money” Jaafari explained.

Joseph Darius Jaafari

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