Can Inmates Seek Employment In Prison?
Inmates are often forced to live a life of isolation and boredom. However, they can find relief from the mundane environment by exploring the many employment opportunities available. The Federal Bureau of Prisons regulations provides that prisoners may be employed at the institution where they are confined for a maximum of 40 hours per week, with pay set between 12-40 cents per hour.
However, there are restrictions on what jobs inmates can perform, especially work activities involving outside contact. This means that most positions available to prisoners are within the prison walls. They include working as cooks, janitors, grounds-keepers and other maintenance staff members. Basically, the only jobs that inmates are eligible for are those that do not pose any danger to the facility.
Laws Regarding Inmate labor
There are many laws regarding the work activities of inmates. The first thing to know is that there are different types of incarceration. This will determine whether or not inmates must work and the type of work they can engage in. For example, prisoners serving a sentence of a certain amount of time may have to work in prison industries if they signed up for a “work release program.”
Inmates who are on probation may only do community service at their discretion. There are also some states with no inmate work requirements. However, these tend to be the exception rather than the rule.
Work Opportunities for Inmates
Working in State Correctional Industries
One of the most popular work opportunities for inmates is working in the correctional industries. Correctional industries are businesses run by prisons and provide goods or services to government agencies, other businesses, or the public. Here, inmates can work in various positions, including manufacturing, farming, and service jobs.
Inmates must be eligible to participate in the program, where the eligibility requirements vary depending on the state. However, some basic qualifications apply in most states. For instance, inmates must have a high school diploma or GED. They must also be incapable of posing any threat or danger to other employees. In addition, certain crimes may disqualify an inmate from working at all. Such crimes include sexual crimes such as rape or pedophilia, where such individuals find it hard to get a chance of working in these industries.
Hence, anyone considering applying for these types of positions must carefully review their background before submitting an application.
Inmates who participate in correctional industries have a chance to learn new skills and earn money. They may also reduce their sentence time by good behavior credits. The industries may also be used as rehabilitation programs for inmates.
Metal Shop Jobs
This is a program available through various prison industries. Here, inmates engage in activities such as making aluminum foils and assembling home appliances like microwaves. However, most of these materials are designed specifically for use behind bars.
Another example is the manufacture of license plates used by vehicles within a particular state. They also recycle old steel by melting it down into new items such as tools needed by other inmate workers. As a result, there is no waste of old material.
Print Shop Jobs
These jobs may include producing booklets, brochures or other printed materials. They are used in a variety of different ways, including:
- Internal company newsletters by correctional facilities to keep employees up-to-date on the news happening within the prison’s community.
- Inmate handbooks containing important information about how inmates can manage their time while behind bars. For instance, what they should do if an emergency arises requiring outside assistance.
- Forms related to potential employment opportunities at prisons across America. These forms detail where prisoners would like to work while in custody.
- Prisoner requests for transfers between institutions.
- Different types of informational pamphlets that are distributed to the public by correctional agencies. These pamphlets are a way of informing people about what life is like on the inside from an inmate’s perspective.
UNICOR Programs for Federal Inmates
UNICOR is a Federal Prison Industries program. The program offers many benefits to inmates who work there. It has an hourly range which is usually higher than most prison jobs. Additionally, inmates can earn time off their sentence for good behavior and job performance. The UNICOR program also provides training in manufacturing skills that can help inmates find employment after release from prison.
Application for the Program
Inmates must first fill out an application at their local prison’s personnel office during the initial application. It asks for general inmate information such as name, date of birth, and Social Security number. It also asks about the inmate’s criminal history and work experience. A UNICOR representative then interviews the inmate after applying.
Upon acceptance, inmates are assigned to a job at one of UNICOR’s manufacturing facilities across the country. Most jobs require assembly line work and manufacturing skills such as welding or machining. Other jobs call for an educational background in electronics, engineering, drafting/CAD, commercial printing, or healthcare professions like phlebotomy (blood drawing).
Inmates often work five days per week. Additionally, they often spend time from 7 am until three o’clock in the afternoon with half-hour lunch breaks and other short rest periods in their shift.
All income from UNICOR goes toward paying restitution to victims, child support or family support, and personal savings. Any remaining funds are put into special accounts that the inmates can access upon release to help them get back on their feet.
Inmate Work-Release Programs
Another great opportunity for inmates looking for employment after release is through work-release programs. Inmates who participate in these types of jobs have an agreement with their facility. The agreement lets them leave during certain hours each day to go to work or job training outside the prison walls.
The amount of time they spend on these release programs varies depending on the inmate’s security level and needs but maybe as little as one hour per day. Some prisons allow minimum-security prisoners two days per week off from the facility to go to work or job training.
There are also some work-release facilities that offer college courses or vocational training. Participating in the program requires inmates to have good behavior during their sentences.Moreover, the inmates in this program must have a sponsor who has agreed to take them back into the community while they’re out on their release program. They must also follow strict guidelines while participating in the program, where they may even be required to wear an electronic monitoring device.
Prison Fellowship Ministries Work Programs
Another great option for inmates looking for employment after release is working through Prison Fellowship Ministries (PFM). PFM offers many different types of jobs, including:
- Community outreach internships.
- Restaurant dishwasher positions.
- Office assistant roles and groundskeeper jobs.
- Construction workers and warehouse staff members.
- Professional mentorships during reintegration training periods called “transition teams.”
Inmates who aspire to partake in these programs must meet certain eligibility requirements. For example, many positions require inmates to have a high school diploma or GED. In addition, they must be able to pass a background check. Tattoos and gang membership could negatively affect a person’s job placement.
Goodwill Industries Work Opportunities
Another work option for inmates is through Goodwill Industries. Goodwill offers several different job opportunities that inmates can participate in, including:
- Rehabilitation and training services
- Clothing and textile services
- Donation processing centers
- Goodwill retail stores
These inmate work opportunities are important as they can help them prepare for life after prison.
Working in Prison Kitchen
One of the most common jobs for inmates in prison is working in the kitchen. This job can be a great opportunity for new inmates because it typically doesn’t require any special skills or training. Further, many prisons offer food service certification courses to help inmates prepare for this type of position.
Working in the prison kitchen can be a great way to learn culinary skills and can help inmatesfamiliarize themselves with the prison.
Some prisons also offer food service certification courses that can teach inmates important skills applicable during and after incarceration.
Cleanup Crew Member
Another common job in many prisons is working on the cleanup crew. This type of position typically doesn’t require any special skills or training. Moreover, inmates who work in this capacity are usually in a uniform shirt that they must wear while carrying out their duties.
Participating in community service programs can help increase an inmate’s chances of landing a spot on the cleanup crew. This is because many prison facilities prefer inmates who can fulfill their community service requirements while simultaneously working.
This job includes tasks such as roadside cleanup, painting over graffiti or even raking leaves in public parks. Inmates may also get assignments to do other types of labor such as mowing lawns, shoveling snow from sidewalks and/or helping with home repairs for the elderly or disabled members of their communities. However, they must be in orange jumpsuits, clearly marking them as inmates performing the service under prison authorization or from a court order through Community Work Service (CWS) programs.
Prison Farming Jobs
These jobs are available in most prisons across America. The correctional facilities have farms and ranches for growing vegetables and rearing livestock like cows or chickens. Usually, it’s the responsibility of the inmates to tend to these animals daily.
Other common farm-related prison labor include:
- Harvesting crops on private agricultural land under contract with state departments of corrections. Producing maple syrup from trees grown specifically for this purpose.
- Raising fish or other aquatic life for restocking programs.
- Growing ornamental plants.
How Do Prison Authorities Ensure That Inmates Complete Unpaid Jobs?
Some prisons use a reward system to get inmates to complete their assigned tasks on time. This system usually involves giving the inmate some kind of incentives, such as an earlier release date or more privileges. In some cases, this system has proven to be very successful. It’s just a few cases where inmates prefer not to work at all.
Despite the cons of using a reward system, it seems to be one of the most effective ways of getting inmates to do what they’re supposed to.
Dealing With Inmates Who Fail to Attend to Prison Duties
Prison authorities deal with inmates who fail to attend to the assigned work in various ways. The most popular manner of dealing with this problem is by making them do a “hard time.” Hard time usually means that correctional officers will give them more work without any incentive.
In some cases, the authorities can take away some privileges from such inmates for a few days or weeks. Such privileges include calls, mails and visitations. Inmates may also face disciplinary action, which could lead to them being sent to solitary confinement as a last resort.
Prisons deal with paid inmates differently. Failure to attend to a designated work station for three days consecutively may result in the inmate losing the job. Those with issues such as medical concerns must notify the relevant personnel in charge of the particular work program of possible absenteeism.
Security Measures for Inmates Working Outside the Prison
Inmates working outside the prison have a variety of security measures put in place to ensure they are safe and secure. These inmates may work for an employer, be on community supervision, or participate in a work-release program.
Below are some of these security measures.
Strict Supervision from Correctional Officers
Correctional officers will often accompany these inmates on their commute to work and back. These correctional officers are responsible for ensuring they stay within set boundaries, follow all rules regarding leaving prison grounds and keep track of any equipment issued during the escorting process. These include company vehicle keys.
Use of Monitoring Technology
Prison officials often use these devices when correctional officers are not always around the inmate when working. They include tracking devices and electronic surveillance tools attached to the inmate’s leg or body. Authorities may also use other forms of security equipment such as cameras placed throughout work sites.
Inmates must pass through prison gates upon entering and exiting correctional facilities. Guards then check for contraband before allowing inmates back into prisons at the end of the day.
Correctional officers may administer periodic drug tests. These tests ensure that inmates are not using drugs or alcohol while working outside prison walls.