The Mission of the Jail Industries program is to provide inmates with a realistic work experience and teach marketable skills, which will improve opportunities for gainful employment upon release, thus reducing recidivism and lowering Utah County citizens resource commitment for maintaining the jail. It is through the development of these work habits that inmates prepare themselves for the challenges of post-release employment.
Overview of the Jail Industries Program
Society has long sought the answers that will shift an offender’s behavior away from crime toward a conventional law abiding lifestyle. Although a variety of factors contribute toward a change from a criminal lifestyle to a lawful one, employment is one of the most important factors in this process.
A good job can act as a "stabilizing force in any individual’s life. It not only provides necessary income but also can give a person a sense of being needed and of belonging, factors which generate meaning and self-worth. For offenders and former offenders a good job provides additional advantages. Co-workers model law-abiding behavior and values which may look attractive to individuals who have spent a life on the edge of society. A conventional co-worker who talks about saving up for a second home or a vacation at the beach with the family isn't just making small talk when on the job with an offender, he’s creating a world of possibility for someone to whom those goals may have previously seemed out of reach. Co-workers can also become the source of a conventional social network, another stabilizing force in any individual’s life. As co-workers get to know the offender, they may welcome him into their circle of acquaintances and friends, thereby extending his contacts with law-abiding individuals.
Given these benefits, it comes as no surprise that researchers have found employment to be one of the most effective vehicles for successful offender reintegration, especially if the offender is over 26 years of age (Uggen 2000:p542) The need to increase an offenders chances of "making it" in the conventional world are more necessary today than ever before. On average over 1,600 prisoners per day are released into society after incarceration in U.S. jails or prisons (Hughes and Wilson 2003). Of those released, approximately two-thirds are likely to be rearrested for a new offense within three years (Langan and Levin 2002:p4). These statistics raise grave concerns about community safety and may be an indicator of the difficulties that offenders face when reentering society after incarceration. Among the many problems offenders encounter in finding a job are widespread employer resistance to hiring ex-offenders, legal restrictions from numerous jobs, and high competition for the low-skilled jobs offenders often seek. These concerns have prompted many federal, state, and local officials to develop or expand pre- and post-release employment programs.
Utah County Sheriff's Office (USCO)
UCSO operates a unique jail industry (JI) in which inmates work for private businesses in the community setting rather than on correctional institution grounds. Known as the "manpower model" of JI, UCSO's program may be the only Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA)-certified program of its type in the nation.
The certification under which UCSO's JI operates is the BJA’s Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP). PIECP was created by Congress in 1979 and was designed to encourage state and local governments to provide employment opportunities for prisoners that mimic the private-sector work world.
Although inmates do not receive their full pay, they are paid the prevailing local wage for their work and are covered under worker’s compensation insurance. In accordance with PIECP regulations, Jail Industries distributes 20 percent of each paycheck to the inmate. Half of that amount (10 percent) is available for his or her use for commissary items. The other half (10 percent) is saved and given to the inmate upon release. The savings fund can be tapped prior to release only to pay court -mandated child support, to replace lost tools, or to pay fines and warrants.
The remaining 80 percent is disbursed among several entities: Utah’s Victim’s Reparation Fund (5 percent). The UCSO portion pays for inmate room and board and compensates the organization for administrative and operational costs of the program.
The Jail Industry (JI) program had been a huge success with all three participating groups: local businesses, inmate workers, and UCSO administrators.
Local business owners appreciate the reliable labor supply which, under PIECP regulations, creates no competition with free citizen workers. Inmates are happy to have a break from jail time and to show potential employers their capabilities. They gain marketable skills, make contact with conventional members of society, and save money for food, housing, and other start-up needs upon release. As for UCSO, in its nine years of operation, the JI program has produced over $5,000,000 in gross revenues.