Most prisoners are expected to work while serving their sentences. Even though men and women behind bars are not paid very much, they can still benefit from working while incarcerated. For example, they can gain helpful skills and experience. Some programs even make it easier to find jobs after prison.
There are all sorts of jobs that incarcerated people do in prison. The most common kind of job is prison support. That includes things like cooking and cleaning. However, prisoners might also work on a farm or in a factory.
Examples of other jobs that are available to prisoners in many facilities include:
- Adult continuing education instructors and tutors.
- Equipment room assistants.
- Referees or umpires.
- Clerks who stock commissary shelves and fulfill prisoners’ orders.
- Chapel orderlies.
There are other jobs besides prison support as well. For instance, prisoners could manufacture things like signs or license plates. Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Programs even let prisoners work for private companies while they’re in prison.
Outside of Prison
Sometimes, incarcerated people work outside of prison. The National Park Service has hired prisoners to fight wildfires in several states, with the prime example of California, where incarcerated workers provided invaluable assistance in containing historic blazes. In addition, South Dakota’s Department of Corrections has also trained prisoners to fight wildfires.
WORK RELEASE AND REENTRY
When prisoners are close to finishing their sentences, they might enter a work-release program. These programs can make reentering society much easier. When prisoners are approved for work releases, they can start working in the free world even before their official release date. In other words, they can leave prison early so they can get a job. Participants live at work-release centers. This kind of program can lower recidivism, meaning participants are less likely to re-offend.
Residential reentry centers can also help prisoners find work. These centers are sometimes called halfway houses since they help prisoners transition between their time in prison and their new life outside. The centers help them find a job and a place to live.
There are many other reentry programs that help former prisoners find jobs in the U.S. One example is the Televerde Foundation which serves incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women. Televerde mentors and trains the women so they can start successful careers. EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute also helps prisoners by training them in cooking and food service. Many of their graduates have even started working at the EDWINS restaurant.
Prison Fellowship® also offers reentry support. Two of our reentry partners are HonestJobs, the nation’s largest network of employers who are intentionally hiring people impacted by the justice system and CrossWalk, a faith-based program that helps former prisoners find housing and employment.
Some prisoners are paid for working, but not all of them are. Still, there are benefits to working while incarcerated besides earning money:
- Giving back to society by becoming productive citizens.
- Preparing for a successful career after prison.
- Developing work skills, including soft skills like timeliness and responsibility.
- Learning to work on a team.
- Finding a job more easily after prison.
- Reducing violence in prisons.
- Reducing the total cost of incarceration.
No job will guarantee a prisoner’s success. But working can still play a part in their restoration, preparing them to start over after prison.
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