"The legislature shall, by law, provide for the occupation and employment of prisoners sentenced to the several state prisons, penitentiaries, jails and reformatories in the state; and no person in any such prison, penitentiary, jail or reformatory, shall be required or allowed to work, while under sentence thereto, at any trade, industry or occupation, wherein or whereby his or her work, or the product or profit of his or her work, shall be farmed out, contracted, given or sold to any person, firm, association or corporation. This section shall not be construed to prevent the legislature from providing that convicts may work for, and that the products of their labor may be disposed of to, the state or any political division thereof, or for or to any public institution owned or managed and controlled by the state, or any political division thereof.
In 2007, the state of Washington had a measure on the ballot to "authorize state-operated inmate labor programs and programs in which inmate labor is used by private entities through state contracts, and prohibit privately operated programs from unfairly competing with Washington businesses." This measure passed with 60.71% of the vote.
-Kristen Vicedomini, Research Director