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Inside Jobs

NCJ Number
Governing Volume: 10 Issue: 6 Dated: March 1997 Pages: 42-43
E Perlman
Date Published
2 pages
Many private companies are using inmates to make their products and provide some of their services; this has advantages and disadvantages for the companies and society, but the inmates can benefit by being trained to perform work that they can continue after their release.
In trying to sell their work forces to private industry, prison officials have several selling points. The private companies will have a captive labor force that resides at the site where the work is done. Prison labor is beneficial for businesses that have seasonal or cyclical demand. Prisons can assemble a work force on short notice. Prison officials also must deal with some negatives, however, including having workers with low skill levels, having work interruptions due to prison regimes, and turnovers due to inmate releases and transfers. Using prisoners as productive workers can be an effective means of rehabilitation, which serves both the inmate and society. An Ohio study showed that for those who held a high-skilled job, recidivism dropped by 50 percent. There are opponents of using prison labor for private companies. Some employers argue that it gives competitors an unfair advantage, and labor union officials believe that prison industries deprive some union members of jobs. The Federal corrections industries program requires that private-sector prison industries consult with organized labor and local private industry to avoid displacing private-sector workers. An additional socioeconomic benefit of prison industries is that workers must use their wages to help pay for their room and board, thus saving the expenditure of taxes, and also to pay restitution to their victims.