The Prison Inmate Labor Initiative, Proposition 139, was passed on November 6, 1990. The official ballot summary for Proposition 139 said:
- Amends state of California Constitution to permit state prison and county jail officials to contract with public entities, businesses and others, for inmate labor.
- Limits inmate labor during strike or lockout situations.
- Adds statutes requiring state prison director to establish joint venture programs for employment of inmates.
- Requires inmate wages be comparable to non-inmate wages for similar work.
- Makes inmate wages subject to deductions for: taxes, room and board, lawful restitution fines or victim compensation, and family support.
- Allows inmate’s employer ten percent of wage tax credit against defined state taxes.
Proposition 139 (codified as California Penal Code § 2717.1 et seq), established the Joint Venture Program (JVP) within the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). A CDCR rehabilitation program, the JVP provides opportunities for inmates to gain valuable work experience and job-skills training, in addition to providing valuable benefits to business owners. The JVP is managed by the California Prison Industry Authority (CALPIA) on behalf of CDCR.
Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program
CDCR holds the Prison Industry Enhancement certificate on behalf of the JVP. The Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP) was authorized in 1979 to encourage joint ventures between correctional industries and private sector companies and to establish employment opportunities for prisoners that approximate private sector work opportunities. Congress selected the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) of the U.S. Department of Justice to administer the PIECP. BJA is charged with ensuring that these programs are in compliance with federal law and regulations.
BJA selected the National Correctional Industries Association (NCIA) to assist in the administration of PIECP, to provide limited technical assistance, and conduct compliance assessments of cost accounting centers (CACs) or Joint Venture Programs in PIE certified jurisdictions.
Certification by the BJA exempts projects from certain federal restrictions on the marketability of prison-made goods, including the Ashurst-Sumners Act (18 U.S.C. 1761(a) and the Walsh-Healey Act (41 U.S.C. 35). Prison-made goods can be sold across state lines.
The PIECP was first authorized under the Justice System Improvement Act of 1979 (Public Law 96-157, Sec. 827) and later expanded under the Justice Assistance Act of 1984 (Public Law 98-473, Sec. 819). The Crime Control Act of 1990 (Public Law 101-647) authorized continuation of the program indefinitely.
BJA Federal Guidelines require that all projects pay inmates a comparable wages defined as that wage rate which is not less than that paid for work of a similar nature in the locality in which the work is to be performed. In no case can the wage be less than the federal minimum wage or the California state minimum wage which ever is higher.