Making the Most From Prison Labor

Many prisoners work within prisons producing goods and services to maintain correctional facilities, reducing the costs to taxpayers of maintaining prisoners and gaining some work skills. A much smaller number work in traditional correctional industry activities, such as for the Federal Prisons.  The ABA Subcommittee on Correctional Industries estimated that total employment of prisoners in 1997 in traditional correctional industries amounted to about 75,000 in a workforce of over 136 million persons, while just 2,400 prisoners worked for private sector industries (ABA, figure 3).  Federal Prison Industries, UNICOR, employs about 17,000 inmates. With nearly 2 million inmates in 1999 the majority of whom are in state and federal prisons where inmate work could be most readily increased, there is considerable potential scope for increasing the work activity of prisoners.

What are the likely economic consequences of an  increase in  the amount of  work prisoners do for the market outside of prisons?  Who would benefit?  Who would lose?  What would be the most efficacious way to increase the work activity of prisoners?

To read this excellent economic analysis of Prison labor, please click here where it is one of a number of articles.

ACLU: U.S. is paying dearly for elderly inmates

On Wednesday, the ACLU released “At America’s Expense: The Mass Incarceration of the Elderly,” a report examining the mushrooming number of prisoners in the U.S. over 50 and the resultant stresses exerted on the corrections system and on our society as a whole. The civil rights group said that states on average could save $66,000 per year for each elderly prisoner they release from the system.

To read this article, see the embedded video, and access the full ACLU report, please click here

U.K. – Plan for cheap prison work ‘may cost thousands of jobs’

It’s deja vu all over again…

“If prisoners are employed in prison then they need to be paid minimum wages. Prisoners’ families are the silent victims in all of this – when someone goes to prison their whole family goes with them. But wages are only part of the problem.

The real issue is that it’s all about employment in prison rather than employability. Sending prisoners to work in sweatshops might quench the public appetite for justice, but it’s only a short-term fix.

Education and treatment in prison needs to be incentivised as much as employment. The Government rhetoric about work might sound good but it’s just a smokescreen.”

To read about the similarities to what those seeking to privatize prisons are saying in England so you can compare it with what they said and how they lied in America, please click here