How US prison labour pads corporate profits at taxpayers’ expense

Thanks to right-wing lobbying, companies can use a loophole to exploit a scheme designed to give offenders work experience

In 1979, Congress created the Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program (known as PIE; pdf) to establish employment opportunities for inmates “that approximate private sector work opportunities”. On the surface, the program is a great idea. It gives prisoners something to do, allows them to contribute to their own upkeep and, hopefully, gives them a better shot of getting an actual living wage job upon release. Such was the intention, anyway.

Unfortunately, and perhaps unsurprisingly, this is not how the PIE program has worked out. Instead, it has become little more than a tidy profit-making scheme for corporations and other entities willing to exploit the captive labor force – often at the expense of private sector jobs.

Not exactly what you would call an “employment opportunity that approximates private sector work opportunities”. And the prisoners assigned these jobs do not count themselves as lucky.

To read this article, on which Bob Sloan collaborated with the author, please click here