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Work in America's Jails: NIJ Provides First National Profile

NCJ Number
Date Published
4 pages
This report summarizes the results of the first National Institute of Justice National Jail Work/Program Inventory.
Data were obtained from surveys completed by 386 jail administrators in 48 States; the jails represented 26 percent of the total bed space capacity of U.S. jails. The proportion of inmates that worked at least a 6-hour day varied by the size of the facility, and averaged 18 percent overall. An initial analysis of the responses indicated that over 80,000 jail inmates currently work 6 or more hours per day. A wide range (2 to 84) of hours was reported to comprise inmates' work weeks. Nearly 20 percent of jails paid their inmates to work; the average daily wage was just over $4.00. Sixty-two percent of the jails compensated inmates who worked with time off of their sentence. Other types of compensation included food, visits, extra privileges, better conditions of confinement, commissary access, reduction in fees and fines, smoking and television privileges, and increased freedom of movement. The five most frequently cited categories of inmate work included cleaning, laundry, groundswork, food service, and maintenance. In many cases, local nonprofit corporations and government agencies profited from inmate work, as did the jail itself.

Date Published: January 1, 1994