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AGO 1951 No. 423 - January 11, 1951
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

PENITENTIARY ‑- COMPENSATION TO INMATES

Salaries and wages for work performed in the penitentiary must be paid from the Penitentiary Revolving Fund.

If the earnings of a prisoner are to be paid to him, they must be paid at the time of release or discharge.

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                                                                 January 11, 1951

Department of Public Institutions
Social Security Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 49-51 No. 423

Attention:  Van R. Hinkle, Supervisor

Gentlemen:

            You have requested the opinion of this office on the following questions:

            1. May compensation for work performed be made to inmates of the Washington State Penitentiary from the General Fund appropriation rather than the Revolving Fund?

            2. May the earnings which have been accredited to the benefit of a particular prisoner at the time of release or discharge be paid upon such terms and at such times as the superintendent may deem warranted?

            Our conclusions may be summarized as follows:

            Salaries and wages given for work performed in the penitentiary must be paid from the Penitentiary Revolving Fund and cannot be paid from the General Fund.

            If the earnings of a prisoner are to be paid to him, they must be paid at the time of release or discharge.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            The question is concerned with chapter 305, Laws of 1927, which authorizes the employment of prisoners.  Section 1, (Rem. Rev. Stat. § 10223-1) provides that every prisoner shall be required to work as prescribed by the Director of Public Institutions.  Section 2, (Rem. Rev. Stat. § 10223-2) authorizes the Director to make rules and regulations relating to the discipline, employment, instruction, education and compensation of the prisoners.  Section 3, (Rem. Rev. Stat. § 10223-3) provides as follows:

            "Where a prisoner is employed at any occupation for which pay is allowed or permitted, or at any gainful occupation from which the state derives an income, the director of business control is authorized to credit the prisoner with such amount of his earnings as the director may deem just and equitable, but in no case more than twenty per cent of his earnings shall be paid to him or his family.  Upon release, or discharge, from the penitentiary, an additional sum, not exceeding twenty-five per cent of the moneys thus earned, may be paid to the person discharged or released."

            Section 4 of the act makes an appropriation in the sum of $25,000.00 from the penitentiary revolving fund to be used in compensating prisoners as provided for in the act.

            Each subsequent session of the legislature has appropriated money from the penitentiary revolving fund for its industrial operations with specific amounts appropriated under (a) salaries and wages and (b) operation.  Accordingly, there would seem to be no reason why prisoners should not be compensated, as authorized by the law from monies appropriated from the penitentiary revolving fund for salaries and wages.  You are therefore advised that it is the opinion of this office that prisoners who have performed work while in the penitentiary should be compensated from the appropriation from the revolving fund.

            In answer to your second question, the Director of Public Institutions is authorized,supra, to make rules and regulations for the compensation of prisoners.  In addition, the statute provides that a portion of the earnings, not to exceed twenty-five percent, may be paid to the person discharged or  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] released upon his release or discharge.  Accordingly, although the Director may determine whether or not any additional sums shall be paid to a prisoner such sums, if they are paid, must be paid upon release or discharge.  You are therefore advised that it is the opinion of this office that the superintendent is not authorized to determine that the earnings on hand at the time of release or discharge of a prisoner may be paid on such terms and at such times as he deems warranted, but the monies to be paid the prisoner must be paid at the time of release or discharge.

Very truly yours

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

JANE DOWDLE
Assistant Attorney General

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