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Prison Jobs (1)…

In prison, everyone has a job.  I recall one occasion, when a new group of dog trainers were having a meeting, an old prisoner with a walker coming out of his housing unit.  He too had been assigned as a trainer.

Factories with Fences

As the meeting among prisoners proceeded on the quad in front of the unit—perhaps 100’ away from the front door—the old guy slowly made his way down the walk.  He had an assistant (whose own job was to take care of him).

Just before he got to the group, they finished their business and broke up.  The old guy stopped, sighed, and slowly turned around to make his way back.

I recall a conversation I had with his assistant.  It seems the old guy was so infirm, that at night he often couldn’t make his way to the bathroom.  The assistant’s job in the morning included cleaning him up.

He was a real big-time criminal; he had refused to pay some taxes.

Curious, I once asked what the specific job was that the prison had assigned to the old-timer.  The assistant told me with a straight face, “Sometimes the dogs get loose of their leash.  His job is to retrieve them.”  Who said that prison staff don’t have a sense of humor?

Prisoner & dog — Auburn University

Taking a stab at prison humor myself, I asked a lieutenant what kind of job would a quadriplegic have?  She looked at me and replied, “We’d find something for him to do.”  She was serious.

When we speak of prison jobs, we have to remember that there are (at least) 51 separate prison systems in America.  Each state and the federal system.  Further, each of these systems have a number of individual prisons.  Together, the United States has the largest prison population in the world.

Prison pay varies from state to state, and even within the individual prisons themselves.  Some provide no pay at all, like the state of Texas—even as prisoners are sentenced to hard labor.  They take the exception clause of the 13th Amendment quite literally.

The “success” of the Texas system can be easily gauged by the fact that at 172,000 prisoners it is second only to the federal system (212,000).

Prisons have a variety of work tasks.  Prisons cannot run without inmate labor.  Guards act also as supervisors.  There is kitchen and dining work, laundry, ground’s maintenance and greenhouse, various construction trades, medical, education, recreation, etc.

Most prisons also have some form of industry—a prison factory.  For facility work, the pay (if there is any) usually ranges from 12-to-40¢-or-so.  Prison factories—to attract more diligent and voluntary labor—usually offer more.  Factories often have a 1-to-2 year waiting list.

Some states allow private industries inside, such as the clothing manufacturer, Prison Blues.  Federal law requires that workers be paid at least minimum wage if they produce products for interstate sale.

However, the inmate-worker is then liable for taxation, room & board, family support, mandatory savings, etc.  They’re back to a “take home” pay of about 40¢/hr.

(For extensive details and research on some of these questions, click on:

Still, it’s the only game in town.  Increasingly, I might observe, the so-called free-world is looking more and more the same…

               Dr. Publico


Category: Prison Jobs
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3 Responses
  1. publico says:

    Great info… I added your link to an update of this post. Thanx. Dr. Publico.

  2. […] In Prison Jobs (1), I spoke to the general issue of prisoner employment and pay throughout the United States—50 […]

  3. Henrietta says:

    Hi there, everything is going fine here and ofcourse
    every one is sharing facts, that’s truly fine, keep up writing.

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