Fox 32 Chicago: Illinois taxpayers shelling out big money for prison barbers 89_prison_barber

October 15, 2018 08:01 PM
By: Dane Placko
Taxpayers in Illinois are used to getting shaved. But you probably didn't realize you're paying top dollar for someone else's haircut as well.
FOX 32 and "Open the Books" continue our investigation into supersize salaries in Illinois, with a look at some hair-raising paychecks for prison barbers.
Records obtained by FOX 32 and Open the Books show 15 prison barbers made more than $87,000 a year in 2017. At least two have topped six-figures in the past two years.
"Illinois is paying a lot, employing a lot. And this is just another example of just how bad it is in this state," said Adam Andrzejewski of Open the Books.
Altogether in 2017, Illinois taxpayers spent more than $2-million to cut prisoners' hair. We checked with other states and couldn't find any paying that kind of money for prison barbers.
In fact, New York state and California -- both with larger prison populations -- apparently use inmates to cut hair.
New York City's jail system does employ eleven barbers, but they only make an average of about $36,000 a year.
"Typical for Illinois, Illinois is paying up to two times more per position in barbering than these other states. And New York is a union stronghold state," Andrzejewski said.
In a statement, an Illinois Department of Corrections spokesperson says: "The calculation of wages for barbers is based on an agreement between (the State) and the International Union of United Food and Commercial Workers. Per the agreement, barbers are subject to a prevailing wage rate."
But barbers we showed those numbers to say they only wish that were the prevailing wage.
FOX 32: "How's that stack up with what you get in the private sector?"
"They're killing us. That's a really good--Can I get a job?" said Darl Morgan.
According to the Federal Bureau of Labor statistics, the average barber's salary in Illinois is $43,000 a year.
Back at the Hyde Park Barber Studio, owner Abdul Karim says while he's happy to see some barbers making big money, as a business owner, he has a different reaction.
"It's extremely frustrating to taxpayers. And I believe we get fleeced all the time in Illinois," he said.
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