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Factories Behind Fences: Do Prison "Real Work" Programs Work?

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2007
2 pages
Publication Series

This report presents evaluation findings for the Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP), which allows inmates to work for a private employer outside the prison and earn the prevailing wage (at least Federal minimum wage) for the specific work or occupation.


The evaluation found the PIECP participants found jobs after release more quickly and held them longer than did inmates who were involved in traditional correctional industries (TI) and "other-than work" (OTW) activities such as a GED program, a vocational education program, a treatment program, or no program. Approximately 55 percent of PIECP workers obtained employment within the first 3 months after their release. Only about 40 percent of their counterparts in the TI and OTW groups found employment within that time. Nearly 49 percent of PIECP participants were employed continuously for more than 1 year; whereas, 40.4 percent of the offenders in TI and 8.5 percent of those in OTW programs were continuously employed for that length of time. Almost 14 percent of PIECP participants were employed for 3 years continuously compared with 10.3 percent of the other groups. Also, PIECP participants had lower rates of rearrest, convictions, and incarceration than those in the other groups at the end of the first year after release (82 percent compared with 77 percent and 76 percent). These findings suggest that PIECP is an underused rehabilitation option and that additional efforts should be made to increase the number of jobs under this program. The report cautions, however, that the evaluation findings do not definitively show that the better outcomes were caused by PIECP participation, because the individuals in the three groups were not randomly assigned. Inmates who worked in either TI or PIECP were "self-selected" and may have had different motivations and backgrounds than the OTW inmates. 1 table, 2 readings, and 4 notes

Date Published: December 1, 2007