Will Work For Room And Board: Prison Labor In America

1438 words - 6 pages

American prisoners receive free medical attention, housing, meals, utilities, use of exercise equipment, and laundry services. The cost of these services amount in the billions of dollars a year and government budgets are straining to accommodate these fiscal requirements. “There’s special urgency in prisons these days,” “As state budgets get constricted, the public is looking for ways to offset the cost of imprisonment” (Brown). This economic concern requires work programs to aid in the relief of financial burdens incurred from convicted criminals. Once found guilty of a crime the prisoner needs to take responsibility for the costs incurred. Prison labor has evolved from the day of hard labor, breaking rocks, and making license plates to manufacturing, data processing, electronics, farming, construction, and even customer relations. Prisoners in America need to work, not to be confused with slavery, for economical, recidivism, and responsibility concerns. Work programs are crucial if taxpayers are tired of paying the cost for prison's financial liability, prisoner's family support, and release support programs.
The idea of prison work programs in America is not a new idea. In 1682, Pennsylvania attempted to utilize hard labor in state prisons but the practice did not come into fruition until 1773. Under the direction of the American Correctional Association, along with watchdog groups, today's prisons operate under high standards. "No single phase of life within prison walls is more important to the public or to the inmate than efficient industrial operations and the intelligent utilization of the labor of prisoners," stated a Federal Bureau of Prisons report in 1949. “This statement is still true today, nearly 50 years later” (Roberts).” In 1994, the state of Oregon, by overwhelming majority, passed a constitutional amendment that requires 100% of all state held inmates to work for pay during their incarceration. The Inmate Work Act has fueled rapid expansion of Oregon prison industries in the past few years and has paved the way for many joint ventures” (Oregon). “In addition, during the last 20 years more than 30 states have passed laws permitting the use of convict labor by commercial enterprises. These programs now exist in 36 states” (Whyte).
Even though people used work programs in the past for personal profit and prison labor has been compared to slavery the programs are successful. Corrupt people are removed from their positions with their exposure by outside organizations. Watchdog groups are necessary for any industry, including the prison work force, and are welcomed. As with any organization, there will always be some bad apples. In American prisons workers are paid for work performed. Presently 80,000 inmates are employed manufacturing blue jeans, auto parts, electronics, furniture, handling reservations, telemarketing, data entry, record keeping, desk top publishing, digital mapping, computer-aided design work, auto...

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