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Prison Industries: Public Agencies and Private Industry Continue to Form Working Partnerships

NCJ Number
Corrections Compendium Volume: 22 Issue: 6 Dated: (June 1997) Pages: 1-4
G Wees
Date Published
4 pages
This article reports on the trend in State correctional departments to enter into working agreements with manufacturers and service providers to put inmates to work and provide them with marketable job skills.
Wanting to decrease production costs but wary of transplanting jobs to cheaper foreign markets, industry leaders look to prisons to provide a workable domestic solution. Due to concerns of labor unions and the marketplace in general, specific conditions have been imposed on the operation of commercial prison industries by the Private Sector/Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program of 1979. This act requires that partnerships between industry and State correctional agencies be federally certified before inmates can be employed. Goods produced by correctional industries can enter the private sector only if inmates are paid the prevailing local wage for the work involved, a measure designed to preserve competition in local labor markets. In addition, local unions must be consulted prior to project initiation, the employment of inmates must not displace employed workers outside prison, and a local surplus of free-world labor for the industry involved cannot exist. Several government agencies have been created to oversee and promote prison-industry partnerships, including the Correctional Industries Association and Community Resource Services. According to correctional administrators, good-paying industry jobs provide an incentive for inmates to develop good work habits and to follow institutional rules. Criticisms and costs of prison industry programs are examined. 10 notes