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by Peter Moskos

August 14, 2009

Prison Labor

In Mexico, on the road between Merida and Campeche, you pass a large prison (filled with people from Mexico City, they say). Lining the highway are a dozen or so stores selling hammocks and other labor-intensive hand-crafted good. They're made by prisoners.

Why don't we have this?


Nick said...

We already do. I've seen lots of prison outlet stores, they sell rugs, wood furniture, birdhouses, Xmas decorations etc made by the inmates. One near me has gazebos & children playhouses for sale too:


PCM said...

Cool. I didn't know.

There's no downside to that, is there?

Frequent Poster said...

Get rid of the minimum wage. then things will make more sense.

tim said...

Here's the idea I came up with while teaching business communication classes in a medium-security facility (read: drug dealers and small-time armed robbers) in southeast Ohio:

Build a factory. Put a great big wall right down the middle, with one assembly line going through it, heavily guarded. Put inmates on the inside portion, and staff the outside portion with recently-released felons.

Build something that would have some cred having been built by inmates. My idea was "Outlaw brand motorcycles," but there are others. Make the inmates this offer: work for prison wage on this side, and if you work for 12 months with no issues on the other side upon release (contingent no arrests, drug tests, etc) you get back pay of minimum wage (or more?) for all the work you did while inside.

Build housing for the workers on the outside, give them little incentive to leave but a huge cash incentive to stay, and you get past that 12-month threshold after which inmates are unlikely to reoffend. In the meantime, you boost the local economy immensely.

PCM said...

I kind of like that.

I'm all for new ideas.