California prisoner 'donates salary' for relief efforts in Gaza

California prisoner 'donates salary' for relief efforts in Gaza
A prisoner in California allegedly donated $17, corresponding to nearly 140 hours of his under-paid labor in prison, to support relief efforts in Gaza.
2 min read
28 February, 2024
In the United States, prisoners are often forced to work while serving a sentence, but salaries are well below $1 per hour. (Getty Images)

A California inmate has donated hours' worth of his salary to support relief efforts in Gaza, according to Los Angeles-based filmmaker Justin Mashouf, who is in direct contact with the inmate.

The donation, worth $17.74, corresponds to what the inmate, who goes by the chosen name of "Hamza", earned for 136 hours working as a porter and janitor in prison. His hourly wage was 13 cents, according to the paycheck posted by Mashouf.

Mashouf said he had met Hamza in 2009 through a friend in Los Angeles' Muslim community who did prison outreach to incarcerated Muslims.

"At the time I was working on a documentary film about Muslims in prison and was seeking subjects for the film," Mashouf told The New Arab. "We have been in touch since then and I even visited him in person."

Hamza's symbolic gesture was also relayed by the Palestinian Youth Movement, who shared it on its social media on Tuesday.

"Some of the deepest solidarity with Palestine in the US lies in the prison system — not only today but historically," the Palestinian Youth Movement said in an Instagram post, which featured a picture of the inmate's paycheck.

"Since the time of the Black Panther Party and before, the dual presence of literature and Islam in US prisons have stirred in America’s most oppressed denizens, a familiarity with the plight of the Palestinian people, as well as other liberation struggles across the globe."

Around 40 percent of California’s 96,000 prisoners hold jobs while serving out their sentences, but their low wages have long been denounced by human rights activists as a form of exploitation and forced labour.

Inmates in California's prison system earn anywhere between 8 and 37 cents per hour depending on the task they perform.

Mashouf's post gained a lot of traction on X. Only 16 hours after it was posted, it had reached over 900,000 views and been shared more than 5,000 times. Many of those who shared or commented on the post inquired how to donate to the inmate himself.

Since 7 October, Israel's war on the besieged Gaza Strip has killed over 29,700 people - mostly women and children.