Women incarcerated at Arizona’s Perryville prison worked part-time at Hickman’s Family Farms since 1995. But in March 2020, 140 women were suddenly moved full-time to the egg farm. They said it was due to Covid, but the real reason was much more sinister.
For context, Arizona has the U.S.’s fifth highest incarceration rate, disproportionately imprisoning Black people, and rapidly imprisoning women. The prison department selected women because they’re “less challenging to manage—and far more compliant."
But these women didn’t have a choice. If they didn’t go, they’d be punished. Coercion also played a role when the farm’s pay significantly exceeded prison facility wages. It was a $12 per hour minimum wage, but prison staff took the money, the women only receiving about $4 or $5.
The hours were ridiculous. The warehouse they slept in had no plumbing. Many even contracted COVID. Plus they were injured, burned, and exposed to toxic fumes.
It isn’t typical for incarcerated people to move full-time onto a corporation’s work site. And it definitely isn’t ethical. They used a health crisis to excuse an unprecedented level of dehumanizing labor exploitation. We need to make sure this doesn’t become typical.