(CN) – The 9th Circuit dismissed a class action filed by inmates who say they were underpaid in prison. “[P]risoners have no enforceable right to be paid for their work under the Constitution or international law,” Judge Richard Clifton wrote.
Current and former inmates who worked in federal prisons sued the Bureau of Prisons and prison officials, alleging Fifth Amendment violations and unfair treatment under international law.
The district court ruled for the prison officials and dismissed the complaint, refusing to let the prisoners amend the complaint or add a cause of action under the Federal Tort Claims Act.
On appeal, the prisoners said they worked for as little as 19 cents an hour, earning between $19 and $145 per month. Such low wages violate their due-process rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the prisoners claimed.
The three-judge panel in San Francisco upheld dismissal of the case, ruling that the Constitution “does not provide prisoners any substantive entitlement to compensation for their labor.”
“We conclude that neither the Fifth Amendment nor international law grants plaintiffs a judicially enforceable right to any level of compensation for work performed in prison,” Clifton wrote.
“A prisoner has no basis for asserting a violation of due process simply because he is made or allowed to work for low pay as punishment for a crime of which he was lawfully convicted.”