While prisons argue that their labor programs provide necessary skills and training to reduce recidivism, activists argue there is little evidence of that.
Prison labor programs that force prisoners to perform a myriad of jobs for, on average, less than a dollar, and punish those who refuse to work with loss of privileges, solitary confinement or parole denial, may be losing money, reports NBC News. In five states, prisoners typically make no money at all, and a recent Texas audit found that 46 percent of the prison system’s agricultural products cost more to grow than they are worth, and the state could have saved $17 million over five years by simply buying canned foods and certain crops — including cotton — instead of relying on prisoners to produce them.
In past years, reports from Washington, Georgia, California and at least half a dozen other prison systems identified similar financial losses. When state auditors reviewed Pennsylvania’s labor programs in 2005, the corrections department did not explain how 14 prison businesses — including plastic bag production and furniture-making — lost more than $7.7 million. And while prison industries like the one in Georgia, which lost $11.5 million from 2004 to 2009, say that profit is not the goal and that their mission is to provide job skills and training that reduces recidivism, a spokesperson for Prison Policy Initiative said there’s no evidence most labor programs generally decrease recidivism, and that prisoners who qualify for those jobs are often the lowest-risk prisoners who are most likely to succeed after release anyway. Prisoner-rights advocates also say many of the jobs aren’t helpful after prison.
Source: The Crime Report https://thecrimereport.org/2021/09/02/prison-labor-programs-lose-money-provide-little/