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Slave labor in California prisons

To the editor: Your front-page article about the detainees being held at a family detention facility in rural Texas housing mostly illegal immigrants hits close to home. The article talks about how the foreigners caught while trying to cross the border are now working in the facility and being paid wages. ("Would you work for $1 to $3 a day?," editorial, Aug. 5)

But wait, there's more. The pay they receive is straight out of the Dark Ages. They get $1 to $3 a day for an eight-hour workday, between 12 and 35 cents an hour. And it's completely legal.

But here's the twist: You don't have to go out of state to find slave wages. We've got a similar pay scale right here in California.

Pick any prison in the state. Workers are paid about the same wages as these people in Texas. And the real kicker is that in California, the state deducts a certain percentage for "restitution."

Slave labor is alive right here in the Golden State.

Rob Macfarlane, Newport Beach

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To the editor: As deplorable as this low level of wage may be, this article ignores important issues.

According to a report by Charles E. Samuels Jr., the director of the federal prison system, the per capita cost for detainees in 2012 was $96.26 per day, and that does not include healthcare paid by taxpayers. Many low-wage earners outside prison do not have such benefits.

Taking into account the cost of housing and board, not including medical benefits, the real wage of detainees is on the order of more than $12 per hour, assuming an eight-hour day.

The fact that such people are being detained at all is a separate issue. Recently a wonderful decision in Federal Court in Los Angeles was handed down demanding that many such detainees be released throughout the U.S.

Douglas L.R. Hauge, Fillmore

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