Workers clear snow around the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s South Station Feb. 9, 2015, in Boston.
Kayana Szymczak/Getty Images

During the winter, a public transportation agency in Massachusetts paid inmates approximately $3 to $4 a day to shovel snow—without the appropriate weather gear—including on days when the temperature dropped to the single digits, ThinkProgress reports.

After getting wind of reports that inmates had endured freezing workdays after being assigned to help with the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority’s snow-removal efforts, ThinkProgress filed a request to access correspondence between the MBTA and the state’s Department of Corrections.

In one exchange, a DOC official asked the MBTA if protective snow gear like gloves, boots and hats would be provided for their inmates to shield them from the freezing temperature.

“We do not have that equipment,” Randa Clark, an MBTA official, replied. “Is this a deal breaker as I thought the crews that did this … are already outfitted?” 

Inmates were shoveling snow in the middle of February, when there were subzero wind chills. According to national weather reports, the low reached minus 3, with a wind chill of minus 25.


A DOC spokesman told ThinkProgress that the inmates worked voluntarily. According to ThinkProgress, the inmates’ wages actually exceeded the national average: Prisoners typically receive approximately 20 cents per hour. ThinkProgress also reports that noninmates were offered $30 an hour for the same work.

Read more at ThinkProgress.