Prisoners Get $200 After Their Release- Newsom Recently Vetoed a New Bill to Increase The One-Time Payment to $1300

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SB-1304, Introduced by Senator Kamlager, is regarding the prisoner release allowance. Currently, a prisoner is paid $200 once released from prison. SB-1304 was aimed at increasing that payment to $1300. Additionally, it sought to adjust the amount annually to account for inflation. [i]
A prisoner in an orange jumpsuit stands with arms out and handcuffs on.reewungjunerr/Adobe Stock

On Sep. 29, the Governor returned SB-1304 without his signature, citing "financial constraints" as a "substantial barrier for individuals to successfully transition from prison to the community." He declined to sign the Bill, clarifying, however, that funding has already been provided for "Returning Home Well," a program providing "housing to those who are recently released, as well as significant funding for community reentry programs." [ii]

Newsom also mentions "lower-than-expected revnues," and that,

It is important to remain disciplined when it comes to spending, particularly spending that is ongoing. We must prioritize existing obligations and priorities, including education, health care, public safety and safety-net programs." [iii]

The Governor also declined to sign SB-1371 Incarcerated persons: wages. The Bill sought an "increase [in] the compensation for incarcerated persons engaged in work programs under the department's jurisdiction." It delineated that the increase must

Adequately allow an incarcerated person to, among other things, afford quarterly packages, purchase educational materials, and maintain family connections." [iv]
Female inmates in a classroom setting receiving instruction.US Department of Justice/Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

The Marshall Project surveyed all fifty states to learn how much each state provided former inmates once released from prison. The findings indicate that California's $200 in funds upon release appears astronomical compared to Louisiana's $20, Alabama's $10, and New Hampshire's $0. [v]

Additionally, although several states have increased their inmate minimum wage, the amounts paid vary widely. The average prison wage maxes out at 0.52 cents per hour. In Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Texas, inmates are not paid for their labor. [vi]


[i] Senator Kamlager, SB-1304 Prisons: release allowance, (2021-2022)

[ii] Gavin Newsom, Veto Message for SB-1304 to Members of the California State Senate, (Sep. 29, 2022)

[iii] Id.

[iv] Gavin Newsom, Veto Message for SB-1371 to Members of the California State Senate, (Sep. 29, 2022)

[v] The Marshall Project, What Gate Money Can (And Cannot) Buy, (Sep. 10, 2019)

[vi] NPR, What People Really Make (and Spend) Behind Bars, (Aug. 16, 2022)

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