Correctional Industry (CI) programs offer a system that promotes the learning, development of skills, values, behaviors and motivation for incarcerated individuals to make changes in their lives that assist them in a successful transition into the community. CI programs accomplish this through the context of work.
In an effort to take full advantage of the impact of industry programming, the maximization of job opportunities for incarcerated individuals is critical in assisting a correctional organization with its reentry initiatives. This is accomplished using a systems approach that includes the strategic evaluation of resources and programming resulting in a comprehensive plan.
A key to sustainable growth is maximizing job opportunities for incarcerated individuals. The process of achieving sustainable growth includes the evaluation of current and future operations, the identification of long term goals, and the strategies to reach those goals.
Criminogenic risk factors encompass personal, interpersonal and environmental issues that have the potential to contribute to criminal and antisocial behavior. Addressing criminogenic risk factors correlates to a reduction in recidivism. As discussed in the Integrated Reentry and Employment Strategies Whitepaper, by the Council of State Governments Justice Center, criminogenic risk factors such as antisocial attitudes, beliefs, peers, and personality patterns clearly affect how someone might perform in the workplace. The inability to gain and maintain employment is considered a criminogenic risk factor.
Incarcerated individuals seeking to enter the job market upon release must be prepared with both technical and soft skills. Ideally, technical skills should be transferable to the current job market. Soft skills are also critical to gain and retain employment as they are behavioral in nature and include factors such as attitude, work ethic, and communication skills. Maximizing job opportunities for incarcerated individuals ensures a larger number of incarcerated individuals are provided opportunities to learn technical and soft skills and gain experience working, thereby increasing the percent of released incarcerated individuals prepared for work.
Studies show that incarcerated individuals involved in CI programming have a lower rate of recidivism than those who do not participate. The overall impact of maximizing job opportunities for incarcerated individuals will be a decrease in the overall recidivism rate.
Research conducted by the Council of State Government’s Reentry Policy Council reports that reduced idleness leads to reduced violence within correctional facilities. Participation in CI programming gives incarcerated individuals an incentive for good behavior, remain free of infractions and actively engage in other programming opportunities.
Research by the Council also states that participants in work programs are more likely to be employed following release and to have higher earnings than non-participants. Incarcerated individuals working for CI have a better chance to find meaningful real-world employment and are less likely to commit new crimes after release than those without CI experience. Ultimately this makes our communities safer.
Maximizing job opportunities in Correctional Industries programs offers benefits which may include:
Assisting with overall prison management through supervision and program participation that requires higher standards of conduct and saves programming costs.
Lowering recidivism through CI program participation increases public safety, reduces future victimization and saves the citizens tax dollars. Cost Benefit Research conducted by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy concluded that CI programs lower recidivism, reduce criminal justice costs, and saves tax dollars.
Increasing economic activities through administrative and operational expenditures and increased purchases from local suppliers. A Study of the Economic Impact of the California Prison Industry Authority demonstrated that Correctional Industries has a positive economic impact on state economies.
Incarcerated individual earnings allow for payments of legal obligations such as victims’ compensation, mandatory savings, cost of incarceration, child support, court-ordered fines and fees, and other debts.
1. Evaluate the current system and the future potential
a) Business Analysis
In an effort to maximize job opportunities for incarcerated individuals, it is necessary to evaluate the capacities and capabilities of the correctional system as it relates to programming. The following are recommended components of an analysis per location:
- Space capacity and capability
- Available and eligible incarcerated workforce
- Hours/days of access to the worksite(s) –civilians and incarcerated individuals
- Capability to work multiple shifts – civilians and incarcerated individuals
- Availability to operate split shifts – Number of available and eligible incarcerated individuals
i. Allowing for Education or other programing to occur while the incarcerated individual continues to work in Correctional Industries.
- Security considerations and concerns with increasing job opportunities
- Logistical considerations and concerns with increasing job opportunities
Are there opportunities for capital expansion?
Where possible, encourage private partners to invest in equipment and infrastructure to create additional industries space.
The level of CI worker positions is often in direct correlation to the amount of current business. To increase the number of incarcerated individuals involved in a CI program, it may be necessary to increase business, sales, contracts and partnerships. An analysis of your current business should include:
Key performance indicators such as revenue, net income, CI worker positions, skill sets, etc.
- Trends in current business
- Trends in potential future business
Assessment of business by segment (government, PIECP, Service, etc.)
b) Labor Market Analysis
Ongoing labor market analyses is critical to CI long term planning as it provides information for both the evaluation of current and future skill development. The analysis will clearly identify the needed skills for employability after release and potential new business development opportunities.
Technical and soft skill development should remain relevant to the needs of the customer and current job market. Given the rapidly changing nature of the job market, it is imperative that leaders understand, evaluate, and make existing and new business program decisions based upon labor market information and customer needs.
Identifying and evaluating labor market demands may also be a source of new business development opportunities for a CI program. The Department of Labor (DOL) provides information on current data that identifies labor needs. This includes global information such as careers in demand or specific information such as the individual skills that employers are seeking to fill specific positions. National and local labor data and contact information is readily available on the U.S. Department of Labor website. Other sources include manufacturers associations and universities.
Reviewing this information on an annual basis can assist management with long- and short-term planning.
c) Eligibility Criteria for CI Incarcerated Workers
CI programs have varying eligibility criteria for placement into CI worker positions. When assessing the ability to expand the CI workforce, it is necessary to evaluate the current eligibility criteria to determine whether the expansion can be supported and sustained.
2. Establish short and long term goals
Create goals using the data and information collected. Develop a plan to:
- Continue to build on and expands the soft and technical skill sets
- Expand programming opportunities by maximizing available resources
- Expand current Joint Venture Partners
- Recruit and retain new business opportunities which focus on the skill sets identified in the labor market information as areas of future growth
- Expand current sales, generating increased volume resulting in additional positions
- Identify business opportunities that will assist with financial sustainability
3. Develop strategies to increase work opportunities
There are numerous strategies to increase work opportunities. The following strategies can be used as an integrated approach to maximizing the positions available:
a) Expand current markets and develop new markets to increase the number of job opportunities for incarcerated individuals.
- Private sector partnerships – PIECP or Service Industries
- Encourage current partners to expand
- Actively seek new partners
- Network with current partners
- Network with community leaders and organizations
- Communicate with businesses. Many times CI can help local business meet their production needs.
- Expand current product sales and product offerings
Balance business unit portfolio to train the greatest number of incarcerated individuals while remaining financially sustainable (Refer to the Financial Sustainability Best Practice)
- Seek grant opportunities
b) Provide educational programming to expand service levels. This will allow a CI program to expand the number served through offering split schedules, i.e. half-day production, half-day classroom. Target the development of skill sets relevant to current market needs through:
- Certifications, Technical and Soft Skills
- Trades Programs
- Higher Education
c) Additional Opportunities for Increased Numbers of CI Incarcerated Worker Positions:
Job Sharing (two incarcerated individuals working part time in one position)
Limit time an incarcerated individual works in the program through the adoption of a “graduate” performance completion mastery system. Skills should be developed as close as possible to release to maximize their relevance to potential employers in the community.
Eligible incarcerated population served
- CI incarcerated worker positions
- Program completion
- Recidivism rate
Arizona Correctional Industries Indirect Impact Study (FY 2019)
California Prison Industry Authority’s Economic Impact on California Fiscal Year 2012-2013
The Conference Board. Are They Really Ready to Work? Employers’ Perspectives on the Basic Knowledge and Applied Skills of New Entrants to the 21st Century U.S. Workforce .
Council of State Government’s Justice Center (2005). Report of the Re-Entry Policy Council: Charting the Safe and Successful Return of Prisoners to the Community. https://csgjusticecenter.org/publications/report-of-the-re-entry-policy-council-charting-the-safe-and-successful-return-of-prisoners-to-the-community-3/
Council of State Government’s Justice Center (2013). Integrated Reentry and Employment Strategies.
Duran, L., Plotkin, M., Potter, P., Rosen, H. (2013). Integrated Reentry and Employment Strategies: Reducing Recidivism and Promoting Job Readiness . https://csgjusticecenter.org/publications/integrated-reentry-and-employment-strategies-reducing-recidivism-and-promoting-job-readiness/
Smith, C. J., Bechtel, J., Patrick, A., Smith, R. R., Wilson-Gentry, L. (2006). Correctional Industries Preparing Inmates for Re-entry: Recidivism & Post-Release Employment . https://4c99dc08-46a7-4bd9-b990-48103d668bb3.filesusr.com/ugd/df1d6e_f4d4621d5bd244e8b3896fa9b096365c.pdf
U.S. Department of Justice. (2010). Career Resource Centers: An Emerging Strategy of Improving Offender Employment Outcomes. https://nicic.gov/career-resource-centers-emerging-strategy-improving-offender-employment-outcomes
Washington State Institute for Public Policy. (2012) Return on Investment: Evidence-based Options to Improve Statewide Outcomes . http://www.wsipp.wa.gov/ReportFile/1102/Wsipp_Return-on-Investment-Evidence-Based-Options-to-Improve-Statewide-Outcomes-April-2012-Update_Full-Report.pdf
- ACA Standards
- Corrections – Workforce Partnership & Prison to Employment
- National Manufacturers Association
- National Institute of Corrections - Achieving Performance Excellence (APEX)
- State Recidivism Studies located on NCIA Website
National and State-Specific LMI - The Labor Market Information Institute https://www.lmiontheweb.org/
Labor Market Information Worksheet
This document is a guide for evaluating labor market supply and demand factors for a particular occupational title in your state and local region. It can be used by the probation, correction, correctional industry, parole, community based and faith-based agencies to explore the feasibility of implementing a prison-based training program or a post-release training and job placement initiative. Links to state labor market information websites needed to complete the form may be found at: https://www.bls.gov/home.htm
The form can be found at: