U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Inmate Work Isn't Optional

NCJ Number
Insight Into Corrections (October 1995) Pages: 2-8
B Fairchild
Date Published
7 pages
Based on interviews with corrections officials, this article profiles inmate work patterns in Illinois prisons.
Prison officials report that inmate work assignments are critical to the safe and sanitary operation of a prison, and if the work inmates perform was done by outside paid labor, corrections budgets could not be sustained. At a pay rate of $15 to $20 per month for 20 to 22 days of work, the State pays about 15 cents per hour to most inmates. This is work that must be done for safety and sanitation requirements in the Unified Code of Corrections. A majority of the inmate job assignments in the prison system are for food preparation, kitchen and dining room clean up, and serving lines in the dietary departments. Hundreds of inmates work in the dietary department serving up to 5,000 meals a day at some of the larger prisons. Other work assignments include barbering; clerking in various prison departments; education assignments; garbage collection; print shop work; floor-cleaning operations; skilled work in electrical maintenance, plumbing, pest control, and carpentry; and vocational students in auto mechanics, building maintenance, graphic arts, and other vocational trades. Work assignments not only provide inmates constructive outlets for physical energy and the use of prison time, but also develop the discipline and vocational skill necessary for employment after release. Illustrative photographs