UCLA Labor Center

New Report: Get to Work or Go to Jail

Publish date: March 30, 2016

We know how the criminal justice system locks people OUT of jobs. But what about how it can lock people INTO bad jobs?

The new report, Get to Work or Go To Jail: Workplace Rights Under Threat, explores just that. It shows how how people on probation, parole, facing court-ordered debt, or child support debt are unable to refuse a job, quit a job, or to challenge their employers.

Among its key findings, the report concludes:

  • On any given day, about 9,000 nationwide are in prison or jail for violating the probation or parole requirement to hold a job. Many of these workers may be stripped of standard labor protections such such as minimum wage and workers compensation
  • Every year in Los Angeles, 50,000-100,000 people must perform unpaid, court-order community service. Some debtors perform many hundreds of hours of unpaid labor, the equivalent to several months of full-time work.
  • African Americans or Latinos account for 2/3 of those incarcerated for violating parole or probation conditions related to work or debt.
  • The majority of fathers who were incarcerated for failing to pay child support worked during the previous year, in fact 95% of fathers reported having been employed prior to incarceration. Of these fathers, 85% of these fathers lived in or near poverty.

Find out more and download the report.

This report was a collaboration between the UCLA Labor Center, the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE), and A New Way of Life Reentry Project.