Worker Power in the Carceral State: 10 Policy Proposals Against the Criminalization of Workers

NELP believes that a just and inclusive economy must deliver economic justice and repair for people with records and their families and communities, especially in Black, indigenous, and Latinx communities that have suffered generational disinvestment and wealth extraction, structural violence, and systemic oppression. Racist punishment systems have been prioritized and funded by policymakers for too long over systemic solutions that create community wellness. In this context, NELP’s contributions are to lift up systemic solutions toward economic stability and inclusion, as well as to provide resources to understand criminalization as a driver of occupational and job segregation. 

Broader than the criminal legal system, the criminal punishment system includes punishments beyond a person’s direct sentence. These punishments target and disadvantage Black, indigenous, and Latinx people and people who are cash-poor. The ongoing punishments in this system can lock workers into cycles of bad work and reincarceration. This policy agenda for reentry and workers’ rights advocates briefly outlines how the criminal punishment system degrades working conditions for all workers – preserving a permanent class of underpaid and underemployed workers – as well as previews pro-worker policy recommendations to address the criminalization of workers. These proposals include:

  1. Monitor and Promote Job Quality for Court Surveilled Workers and Workers with Records
  2. Community-Based Organizations Set a Job Quality Floor
  3. Amend the 13th Amendment and Corresponding State Constitutions
  4. Unemployment Insurance Eligibility for Currently Incarcerated Workers
  5. Unemployment Insurance Eligibility for Court-surveilled Workers and Workers with Records
  6. Work Opportunity Tax Credit Reforms
  7. Retaliation Protections
  8. Discipline and Firing Protections
  9. Workers’ Compensation Program Reforms to Incentivize Safe Workplaces
  10. Protect Workers with Records from Impacts of Targeted Labor Brokering

Download the publication to read more. 

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About the Author

Han Lu

Areas of expertise:
  • Criminal Records & Employment,
  • Workplace Equity

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