Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Prisoners And Labor

Give the jobs Americans don’t want to prisoners not illegals
Body: Instead of giving prisoners luxuries such as in-cell televisions, pornographic materials, R, X, and NC-17 rated movies; personally owned computers,; in-cell coffee pots and microwave ovens; and expensive electronic musical instruments why dont we put them to work on the jobs American dont want. If youre in prison for a crime you did you should be busting your ass.

I got this today and felt that I should respond to this idea. Certainly the thought of putting prisoners to work has been tossed around in one form or another for quite some time. Various reasons are given but usually the whole matter isnt considered.

Why would we not want to give jobs to prisoners? The main reason is when these things have been done in the past (and are still being done) is that the State or perhaps the prison/contractor is the sole beneficiary of what amounts to slave labor. Moreover the State would then be making money on those they jailed, giving the State a perverse reason to lock up more people and hold them for longer.

It is possible to make such a venture work, be ethical and reduce recidivism rates all at the same time. Allow companies to set up shop and employ the prisoners in various trades which would be limited so as to not give a criminal the tools to become a better criminal (accounting and locksmithing are areas that come to mind.) The companies that come in would have to abide by all the same laws they would have to if the had hired someone off the street, most notably in the area of wages, so as to not provide any unfair competative advantage to said company. Obviously wages would be lower, but at least minimum wage. From these wages, 50% would go to reparations with most of the remainder being held in escrow so that when the prisoner is released he has some money (and a trade) to survive on without so much pressure to return to crime.

Once reparations have been made all the monies made would be placed into that escrow account. Alternatively, instead of being placed in escrow that money could go to the family of the prisoner in order to boost their ability to make it and not go on welfare or even turn to crime themselves. This would have the added benefit of ensuring a high percentage of prisoners willing to work as they would be able to provide something for their families as opposed to the State simply confiscating their labor to give to someone whom they have (likely) already shown they care little for.