Learning work skills and gaining experience in prisons

In an effort to help inmates find a better life after prison, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) provides offenders two ways to gain training and work experience. TDCJ's Texas Correctional Industries (TCI) division and Prison Industries Enhancement (PIE) help prisoners gain marketable skills and valuable work experience, which prison officials hope will reduce recidivism.

According to John Benestante, the director of TDCJ's Manufacturing and Logistics Division, which oversees TCI and PIE, the TCI's goal has evolved since 1995 to include more rehabilitation by providing job skills training and helping offenders reintegrate into society after their release.

  • To meet its goal of providing training and work experience for offenders, TCI runs 43 facilities in 35 TDCJ units where more than 7,500 prisoners produce more than 500 different products (including soap, signs, uniforms, brooms and kitchen equipment).

  • Inmates who participate in PIE work programmes save money for their release ($1.3 million), contribute to the Crime Victim's Compensation Fund ($1.6 million), support their dependents ($1.4 million), help pay for their room and board ($2.7 million), and begin court-ordered restitution ($46,200) before ever leaving prison.

  • According to statistics, the programme works – the percentage of offenders released in 1992 who were incarcerated again within three years was 49.1 percent, compared to 30.7 percent of those inmates released in 1997.

    Benestante says employers benefit from a willing work force that doesn't call in sick or need health insurance, and prison administration benefits from having fewer inmates idle. "The main advantages are that it cuts down on idleness, improves (inmates') self-esteem, and helps their families – a lot."

    Source: Suzanne Staton, Doing Useful Time, Fiscal Notes, February 2002, Carole Keeton Rylander, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.

    For text http://www.window.state.tx.us/comptrol/fnotes/fn0202/doing.html
    For more on Prisons/Privatisation http://www.ncpa.org/iss/cri/

    FMF Policy Bulletins 30 April 2002
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