Location:
PRISONS AND PRISONERS; PRISONS AND PRISONERS - FACILITIES;
Scope:
Connecticut laws/regulations; Program Description;

OLR Research Report


May 6, 2011

 

2011-R-0191

INMATE WORK ACTIVITIES

By: Jennifer Brady, Research Fellow

Amanda Gordon, Research Fellow

You asked for information on permissible inmate work activities in Connecticut and surrounding states. You specifically asked for (1) the types of work permitted and those activities in which inmates are actually engaged, (2) a summary of inmate work activity in surrounding states, and (3) a cost-benefit analysis comparing the value of the resources (e.g., labor) spent on the work with the value of the work product.

We contacted the New York Department of Correctional Services and Rhode Island Department of Corrections, but they have not responded to date.

We were unable to obtain information for a cost-benefit analysis of the work done versus the value of the work product.

SUMMARY

State law does not address specific work activities inmates may engage in, but the Department of Correction (DOC) offers several types of work experience to inmates and the law references some of these. State law provides general provisions regarding inmates employed by the state or a nonprofit, inmate labor in private industry, and work-release programs.

DOC Administrative Directive 10.1 (copy enclosed) sets standards for inmate work assignments and pay. Generally, inmates are not entitled to any work, programmatic, or educational assignment. Sentenced inmates may not refuse or reject an inmate assignment, with the exception of inmates assigned to the Private Sector Prison Industry (PSPI) program, in which participation is voluntary. Inmates not yet sentenced may elect to take a work assignment. Work assignments depend on the availability of jobs, an inmate's security level, and his or her skills and experiences.

In Connecticut, inmate assignments include institutional work involving operations within the facility, prison industries, PSPI, work-release, and public service. Currently, there are 17,520 inmates in the prison facilities, including sentenced and unsentenced inmates, and approximately 11,700 authorized work assignments in the facilities.

DOC classifies inmate work assignments into three categories based on their funding source: (1) General Fund positions, (2) revolving fund positions, and (3) private industry positions. General Fund positions are assignments involving operations in the facility where the inmate is incarcerated. They are classified in a three-level system based on the skill and ability needed to complete the assignment. Revolving fund positions are work assignments at the prison commissary and shops operated by Correctional Enterprises of Connecticut (CEC). In the PSPI program, a private company operates within DOC facilities and employs inmates. DOC Administrative Directive 10.20 (copy enclosed) provides guidelines for the CEC and PSPI programs. The PSPI positions and work-release programs are referenced in the law, while guidelines for pubic service work are outlined in DOC Administrative Directive 10.5 (copy enclosed).

By law, inmates must be compensated for services performed and compensation must be based on merit, diligence, and skill in order to encourage inmate incentive and industry. Inmate pay rates range from $.75 to $1.75 per day for institutional work, $.30 to $1.50 per hour for prison industries, and $.30 to $1.00 per hour for commissary assignments. The law requires that an inmate be paid the prevailing wage for PSPI positions. The pay for work-release programs may not be less than the pay provided for “similar work in the area.”

In Massachusetts, inmates' assignments include operational work within the prison facilities, work in various prison industries, general and specialized work crews, and work-release programs.

INMATE WORK ASSIGNMENTS IN CONNECTICUT

The law does not confer the right to work on the state's inmates. But, the DOC offers several types of work experience to prisoners and the law references some of these.

Under DOC Administrative Directive 10.1, sentenced inmates are not entitled to work, educational or programmatic assignments. But sentenced inmates may not refuse or reject an assignment, with the exception of inmates assigned to PSPI programs in which participation is voluntary. Inmates not yet sentenced may elect to participate in work assignments. The directive states that an inmate with an inmate assignment is not considered an employee of the DOC or the state.

The DOC classifies inmate paid work assignments into three categories based on funding source: (1) General Fund positions, which are institutional assignments involving facility operations, (2) revolving fund positions, which include CEC positions and the commissary; and (3) PSPI positions, which are offered by private companies with operations in a facility. CEC and PSPI programs are addressed in DOC Administrative Directive 10.20.

The law recognizes PSPI and work-release programs. Inmates may also perform public service projects. Standards for public service assignments are contained in DOC Administrative Directive 10.5.

The DOC commissioner may permit any inmate to be employed by an agency or department of the state or a state or federal subdivision. He may also permit the inmate to work for a private nonprofit organization. Inmate participation is voluntary. Inmates employed under this statute must receive the same compensation they would receive if they worked within a correctional institution (CGS 18-90a).

By law, inmates must be compensated for services performed and compensation must be based on merit, diligence, and skill to encourage inmate incentive and industry (CGS 18-85(a)). Certain programs require that inmates be paid a prevailing wage or a wage similar to work performed in the same area.

Institutional Work Involving Operations Within the Facility

The DOC classifies institutional assignments involving operations in the facility where the inmate is incarcerated as General Fund positions. These assignments are further classified in a three-level system based on the skill and ability needed for the assignment.

Work assignments in Level 1 involve routine, repetitive tasks with only minor variation in routine and involve skills that are readily learned. Level 2 work assignments require greater skill and ability because they are based on training, experience, and knowledge of established inmate assignments. Level 3 assignments also involve skills and abilities based on training and experience, but they tend to require a more specialized and technical training, which would normally require the inmate to possess certification or licensure.

Most inmate work assignments are General Fund appropriated by legislature positions, specifically those classified as Level 1. Table 1 provides the type of institutional work assignments classified as General Fund positions, the number of authorized positions, and their pay levels. The number of positions shown is authorized positions, not the number of filled positions.

Table 1: General Fund Positions in Prisons

Work Assignments

Number of Authorized Positions

Pay Level

(per day)

Level 1

   

Janitor

3657

$0.75

Kitchen 1

833

$0.75

Maintenance 1

55

$0.75

Student

3772

$0.75

Total Level 1

8317

 

Level 2

   

Clerk/Aide

269

$1.25

Kitchen 2

200

$1.25

Laundry

263

$1.25

Maintenance 2

126

$1.25

Outside Detail

390

$1.25

Painter

107

$1.25

Specialty

312

$1.25

Tutor

147

$1.25

Total Level 2

1814

 

Level 3

   

Barber

226

$1.75

Certified Job

265

$1.75

Kitchen 3

99

$1.75

Maintenance 3

80

$1.75

Off Grounds

396

$1.75

Total Level 3

1066

 

GRAND TOTAL

11,197

 

Source: DOC (2011)

Prison Industries and Commissary

The DOC classifies work assignments at workshops operated by CEC and at the prison commissary as revolving fund positions. These positions are designed to be self-supporting, with proceeds from product sales covering operating expenses, such as direct salaries and equipment. They are funded through the non-appropriated (revolving) Correctional Industries Fund.

The Correctional Industries program, commonly referred to as prison industries, provides goods and services to state agencies, municipalities, and nonprofit organizations while offering inmates an opportunity to develop vocational and occupational skills. The work settings replicate private industry to offer inmates a realistic work experience that stresses the same types of performance standards and accountability that apply to workers in the community. Standards for this program are contained in DOC Administrative Directive 10.20. In FY10, total sales were $6.7 million.

The CEC operates industry programs in four facilities: Cheshire, MacDougall-Walker, Osborn, and York. CEC products and services include license plates for the Department of Motor Vehicles, signs, plastic bags, silk screen printing, plaques, clothing, embroidery, printing, mattresses and pillows, sewing, metal fabrication, furniture re-upholstery and refinishing, ergonomic seating, and data entry and processing. (See OLR Report 2008-R-0345 for more information about this program, attached.)

The prison commissary sells various personal supplies and food items to inmates. DOC operates the commissary using three district warehouses, each of which serves several DOC facilities. Facilities do not have individual stores. Inmates assigned to these warehouses process and package orders under the supervision of commissary staff. Total sales in FY10 were $14.6 million (including approximately $281,000 in sales tax). (See OLR Report 2010-R-0503 for more information about the prison commissary, attached.)

Table 2 provides the number of authorized work assignments classified as revolving fund positions.

Table 2: Revolving Fund Positions

Work Assignments

Number of Positions

Pay

(per hour)

CEC Industry

352

$0.30 - $1.50

Commissary

134

$0.30 - $1.00

GRAND TOTAL

486

 

Source: DOC (2011)

Private Sector Prison Industry (PSPI)

In the PSPI program, inmates are employed by private companies that operate their business within DOC facilities. This program is authorized by state and federal law. An inmate may participate in this program only on a voluntary basis and only after he has been informed of the conditions of his or her employment. The program may not result in the displacement of “employed workers” or impair existing contracts for service. Inmates must be paid the prevailing wage (CGS 18-90b).

Standards for PSPI work are contained in DOC Administrative Directive 10.20. The DOC has an agreement with SourceOne to have inmates at the York facility scan a variety of documents, such as utility bills, architectural drawings, and others. These inmates are paid $8.71 per hour. There are 13 authorized work assignments classified as private industry positions.

Work-Release Programs

State law recognizes work-release programs as paid employment in the community (CGS 18-100). According to the DOC, there are 772 inmates living at 25 halfway houses participating in work-release programs. Their average wage, paid by their employer, is $9.40 per hour. No inmates currently living in prison facilities participate in these programs.

Public Service Work

DOC Administrative Directive 10.5 sets guidelines for inmate participation in public service projects. Inmates can participate in activities and services that benefit state, municipal, and local government agencies or nonprofit organizations. Services may include volunteer projects related to maintaining or elevating the quality of the environment, such as enhancing hiking trails, beaches, and parks; labor and maintenance in building restoration projects; soup kitchens; churches; participation in humanitarian endeavors at nursing homes and community shelters; involvement in public speaking for schools and community groups; and construction of goods to be donated.

Information on the number of inmates that participate in public service was not available.

INMATE WORK ASSIGNMENTS IN MASSACHUSETTS

According to Massachusetts' DOC Director of Legislative and Government Affairs, inmates' assignments include operational work within the prison facilities, work in various prison industries, general and specialized work crews, and work-release programs.

Inmates that participate in operational work within the facilities may work in the kitchen, prepare food, assist in the library, and act as housemen and runners. Inmates working in the industries create products such as clothing, mattresses, license plates, office furniture, and tools (such as push brooms).

Minimum security inmate work crews perform tasks such as cleaning trash on highways. Specialized crews are formed to clean state office buildings, or clean after events such as the Boston Marathon. An inmate building crew was formed to build a house with “green” materials made in the institution. Work crews also help with general maintenance, such as cleaning cemeteries, raking or mowing lawns, and painting buildings. Before these assignments are performed, the DOC checks with the town or other appropriate body to make sure these assignments do not violate labor laws.

A work-release inmate may work for a private company. Typically, these work assignments are classified as unskilled or lower skilled positions in restaurants, factories, and other places. In some cases, work-release inmates who are unable to find or who cannot obtain proper transportation to employment outside of the prison facility may retain work crew status.

JB/AG:ro