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Prisons, Work and Re-Entry

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 1999
5 pages
This article examines reasons for low work participation rates by the country's 1.2 million prison inmates and describes some recent developmental efforts by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) to promote an increase in inmate labor participation both in prisons and after release.
Both morale and economic rationales support putting inmates to work. Common reasons why more inmates do not work relate to facilities, security and safety, lack of a work ethic, management mindset, inmates' lack of skills, lack of management skills, restricted product markets, and prison locations. NIJ has proposed a long-range demonstration program that systematically identifies, solves, and removes obstacles to full employment in prisons. The demonstration effort would employ two concurrent strategies: Model Prisons and Model Programs. In Model Prisons, NIJ would work in partnership with at least three State systems to expand the percentage of inmates employed. In Model Programs, NIJ would support annual innovation competitions that offer incentive grants for experiments within larger numbers of individual institutions. NIJ is also working with police leaders, judges, and corrections officials to develop solutions to the issue of community re-entry by former inmates. These efforts are evolving into two models: re-entry courts and re-entry police/corrections partnerships. Many fine programs exist to meet certain offender needs, and NIJ has worked with other agencies to identify and publicize some promising programs. However, the communities to which inmates return are likely to be jobless and impoverished. Nevertheless, safety is every criminal justice agency's problem, and the massive numbers of inmates returning to the community each year require changed responses by corrections. Photograph

Date Published: January 1, 1999