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How to Reduce Prison Costs
By John Dewar Gleissner, Esq
Published: 06/09/2014

Savings Prisons used to make profits in a number of different states. One penitentiary in New York made profits four times greater than the costs of running the prison. But that was over 100 years ago. Since that time, federal and state statutes squashed prison industries. Businesses and free labor did not appreciate and could not compete with industries behind bars, so those special interests worked to ban interstate shipment or sale of convict-made goods. Prisoners want to work, and their wardens know that working prisoners are much less trouble. To reduce incarceration costs today, the following steps can be taken:

First, federal and state statutes prohibiting the shipment and sale of prison-made goods should be repealed regarding goods now made exclusively overseas.

Second, the labor laws, insurance and restrictions protecting law-abiding workers should be repealed as to correctional labor and industries, with the exception of OSHA, regarding goods now made exclusively overseas. Substantial immunity from lawsuits should be provided to prison businesses. Prisoners and private businesses would negotiate on a pure laissez-faire basis.

Third, federal and state governments should encourage through their laws the establishment of industries employing prisoners who sign contracts with private business in return for negotiated wages, hours and conditions of employment. Private businesses should have the unfettered right to return offending workers to the general prison population. Prison industries could be established within prison walls or in separate secure facilities. Money earned by offenders would be put into a trust account, pending good behavior and subject to claims for child support, victim restitution and their own room and board in prison.

Fourth, state and federal governments would provide administrative and judicial oversight of labor and industries, to assure prisoners received their agreed compensation upon release and were not abused.

As a result of these steps, industries behind fences would thrive. Businesses might absorb some or all of the costs of incarceration. Departments of Correction could rent space or provide meals and medical care in return for some compensation. Overcrowding and its attendant problems would decrease. Inmates could likely work 60 hours per week with little problem, and would then have a better chance to support themselves when released from prison. Rehabilitation prospects would rise. Violence would decrease. Businesses and labor in the free world will also benefit, because prison industries will need supplies, services, machines and machinists from outside prison.

Because workhouses or work communities of prisoners would provide a safer, better life for prisoners, the behavior of prison workers would improve dramatically. Incorrigibles would remain in prison because no employer will hire them. Employed prisoners would usually behave. If they misbehaved, prisoners would lose their job, some or all of their trust account savings, and get sent back to the unpleasant general prison population.

Editor's note:

Corrections.com author John Dewar Gleissner, Esq. graduated from Auburn University (B.A. with Honor, 1973) and Vanderbilt University School of Law (1977), where he won the Editor's Award and participated in the Men's Penitentiary Project. In addition to practicing law in Alabama for the last 33 years, Mr. Gleissner isthe host of the Incarceration Reform Mega-Site blog http://incarcerationreform.blogspot.com/ and author of "Prison & Slavery - A Surprising Comparison", he is available for speaking engagements. Reprinted with permission - ezinearticles.com.


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