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House Bill 654 — Corrections, employment, benefits

House Bill 654 — Corrections, employment, benefits

Parrish Miller
March 1, 2024

Bill Description: House Bill 654 would impose new regulations on employers who hire prisoners. 

Rating: -2

Does it give government any new, additional, or expanded power to prohibit, restrict, or regulate activities in the free market? Conversely, does it eliminate or reduce government intervention in the market?

House Bill 654 would amend Section 20-242, Idaho Code, which deals with prisoner furloughs and employment. The bill would impose new regulations on employers that hire prisoners on furlough. It could harm the prisoners and also discourage employers from hiring them. 

The bill says, "A prisoner who secures employment with a private employer shall receive the same salary range offered to other similarly situated employees based on experience, education, and other qualifications. An employed prisoner shall have available to him all the benefits offered to other similarly situated employees, such as health care benefits, paid leave, flexible spending accounts, and life insurance. If an employed prisoner elects to participate in an optional benefit, he shall have the same financial responsibility as his coworkers to pay for insurance premiums and copayments for services received. Employed prisoners who elect private health insurance shall list the board as a secondary payer."

The government should not dictate employment terms for anyone in the private sector. Such contracts should be negotiated between the parties without government intrusion or coercion. There are certain disadvantages and risks to hiring a prisoner, and some prisoners would happily accept a little less pay or reduced benefits to obtain a job. Under this bill, however, the state would block an agreement that was acceptable to both employer and employee.


Does it increase barriers to entry into the market? Examples include occupational licensure, the minimum wage, and restrictions on home businesses. Conversely, does it remove barriers to entry into the market?

This bill effectively sets a price floor for prisoners seeking employment, preventing prisoners from underbidding the competition to obtain jobs. An individual’s unique circumstances (such as being incarcerated) could certainly create a situation where accepting a reduced salary or constrained benefits would be worth the opportunity and experience a job provides. 


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