A strike by prisoners stopped production yesterday at the manufacturing facilities at Lorton Reformatory, with inmates angry because of a three-week delay in receiving wages and food supplements owed them for their work.
An inmates' committee began talks with Lorton officials soon after the strike began in an attempt to resolve the dispute, officials said.
More than 500 inmates work in the prison's furniture repair shop, print shop, institutional clothing factory and laundry, all of which are affected by the work stoppage.
Leroy Anderson, a spokesman for the D.C. Department of Corrections, said the striking prisoners will not be punished in any way.
He said the delay in payment for the prisoners' work was due to understaffing at Lorton.
Anderson said talks aimed at ending the strike are under way among several inmate representatives and prison administrators.
"The prisoners are upset and angry," Anderson said, "but they're also sophisticated about the negotiating process. They're saying, 'We recognize you've got a problem, but we also want you to solve ours.' "
Lorton's production facilities have an annual sales volume of $.7 million, Anderson said. Prisoners can earn up to $180 a month working in the prison shops.
The money is placed in individual accounts from which they can draw up to $50 in coupons for use in the canteen. The rest can be sent in money orders to their families.
For the last three weeks, coupons and money orders have not been processed, Anderson said. He said finance office employes would be put on overtime, beginning yesterday, to process the forms until the backlog was erased.
"The basic problem is that we have too many inmates and too few people to attend to their needs," Anderson said. "Everything's backed up."
Lorton's Central Facility, where the production facilities are located, has more than 1,350 inmates and about 300 staff members, he said.
Current hiring efforts are going into providing more than 100 court-mandated correctional officers by the end of the month, Anderson said. But clerical help also is badly needed, he said.