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Inside Story ·

Prison Labor, Low Wages and the Side Hustle

Incarcerated workers turn to side hustles to survive. On the outside, comedian Luenell reflects on her time behind bars — and in show business.

Inside Story explores how prison labor, which some call “modern-day slavery” because of its low wages, gives rise to an underground economy of barter and side hustles.

Comedian Luenell sits down with host Lawrence Bartley to talk about her own incarceration and how she built a life after prison in comedy clubs and on the screen, sometimes drawing from her time behind bars.

Fernando Ruiz beat Bobby Flay on the celebrity chef’s TV show, but that was just one highlight in Ruiz’s burgeoning culinary career. Ruiz tells us about his journey from discovering his love for cooking while in prison to becoming an executive chef.

Cheesecake in prison? Kenyatta Emmanuel Hughes shares the recipe he learned using ingredients available in lockups.

Bartley also recounts his experience working prison jobs, the low wages and potential benefit of “the side hustle economy” for life after prison.

Reading list:

CONTRIBUTORS FROM THE MARSHALL PROJECT

Beth Schwartzapfel, Geraldine Sealey, Donald Washington, Jr., Martin Garcia, Savannah Hugueley

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When you donate by December 31, your donation will be matched, dollar for dollar, by Marshall Project board member Abby Pucker. As a special thank-you gift, we'll also send you one of our exclusive Marshall Project tote bags.

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