Today’s prisons offer a variety of work programs for inmates. However, they are not all equal.
Some programs teach few skills that will be useful outside the walls. Others, however, give offenders hands on experience working for a private company while still behind bars. Known as Prison Industry Enhancement (PIE), these programs employ less than 5% of the total inmate population. However, PIE has yielded the best results for securing a job once released, earning higher wages, and reducing recidivism for that individual. Inmates who participated prison industry programs were 24% less likely to revert to criminal behavior as much as 12 years following release. Inmates were also 14% more likely to be gainfully employed following release from prison.
By working for a private company while incarcerated, inmates can learn tangible job skills directly related to the work they are doing, as well as indirect skills such as understanding the importance of timeliness, respecting authority figures, and the value of teamwork, among others. The PIE program also offers greater economic incentives for both inmates and taxpayers, as inmates are able to earn up to $400 a month in wages and bonuses (compared to the average national hourly pay of $.25/hour while incarcerated), with a portion of that money going back into the state’s fund to pay for housing of the inmates saving taxpayers money. Finally, these programs are run more efficiently due to the program being led by those with backgrounds in business rather than by prison guards who are often juggling many different responsibilities.
This program has proven to yield positive results on the small scale. Our goal is to expand PIE so that more inmates can take learn new skills and get back on a path to economic opportunity. It is a win-win-win. Greater training and job placement for ex-offenders leads to lower recidivism rates, which leads to less crime and reduced costs for the Bureau of Prisons.