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Prison Industries 1997: Outside Federal System, Inmate- Employees Remain an Elite Group

NCJ Number
Corrections Compendium Volume: 22 Issue: 6 Dated: (June 1997) Pages: 10-21
G Wees
Date Published
12 pages
This prison industry survey found that fewer than 1 in 10 of the approximately 1 million inmates incarcerated in U.S. prisons worked in an industry environment.
Data indicated that 939,444 men and 56,336 women were currently serving prison sentences at the time of the survey. Of these, slightly under two-thirds were considered eligible for industry employment. Just over 59,000 men were actually employed in prison industries, representing 6.2 percent of all male inmates and 13 percent of those eligible. The approximately 4,200 female inmates who worked in prison industries represented 7.5 percent of all female inmates and just over 15 percent of those eligible. The largest employer was the Federal Bureau of Prisons, with 16,286 men and 1,123 women working for its Federal Prison Industries. California reported the next highest number of employed inmates, with 6,305 male and 621 female employees. Texas reported 6,566 employed men and 314 employed women. Of all survey respondents, 83 percent said institutions had waiting lists for industry jobs. Aside from general eligibility requirements, several respondents indicated certain inmates, such as death row inmates and those with medical restrictions, were automatically ineligible for industry employment. While general eligibility requirements varied according to jurisdiction, several jurisdictions appeared to have few if any eligibility requirements. Arkansas, Georgia, and Texas did not pay inmates for industry work, but most jurisdictions paid an hourly wage. Data on prison industry budgets revealed most industries were financed by a self-sustaining revolving fund, and most respondents said their industries were operating at a profit. The majority of industries appeared to fall into the category of traditional prison enterprises--license plate shops, print and sign shops, farms and dairies, laundry services, and furniture and upholstery shops. Eighteen Canadian respondents reported 26,915 inmates, of whom about 11 percent were employed in industry jobs. 2 notes and 2 tables