The clamor over low inmate pay neglects one essential fact, one that is central to the current preoccupation with justice reform: Inmate work programs are the best known way to rehabilitate prisoners. Honest work elevates people regardless of what they are paid. Work humanizes inmates; employed inmates seem less like caged animals. While they paid me less than two dollars a day, my supervisors valued me as a person and an employee, at a time when no one else did, including myself.
This is why, even with the low wages, inmates who work in a prison are statistically more likely to find jobs quickly upon release and keep those jobs longer—which, in turn, lowers recidivism rates. According to a March study by the Manhattan Institute, "rapid attachment" to employment reduces recidivism by released offenders by another 20%. Getting and keeping a job requires more than just vocational training; an ex-offender needs to get along in the workplace, too, and that’s what prison work assignments teach.
***But those calling for a minimum wage for inmates who work are ignoring the likely consequences. A minimum wage for inmates would stop jobs for inmates. If governments and private companies were forced to pay inmates more, prison jobs would be outsourced to the free world because they can observe and supervise minimum-wage employees there but they can’t see a “justice-involved” worker behind bars. It is the low wages that induce companies to establish so called “factories behind fences” and create prison jobs where they didn’t already exist.
Monday, October 12, 2015
Posted By Milton Recht
From The Wall Street Journal, Opinion Commentary, "My Prison Job Wasn’t About the Money: Protesting low pay will drive out companies and deprive inmates of valuable, life-affirming experience." by Chandra Bozelko:
Posted 10/12/2015 04:00:00 AM