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Factories Behind Fences


The June issue of NIJ Journal has an article by Marilyn Moses and Cindy Smith titled "Factories Behind Fences: Do Prison ‘Real Work’ Programs Work?" They describe the results of a study on the rehabilitative benefits of employment within prison. However, as noted in a sidebar, the study has a major flaw. Prisoners volunteer for employment, and hence the groups being compared differ in a way other than the "treatment." A valid experiment requires random selection to experimental and control groups. Even so, it is good that this neglected component of rehabilitation is getting some attention.

Fear of putting American workers out of work has long hindered prison industries, but the reality today is that there are large swaths of the economy that are almost entirely imports. We should be putting prisoners to work making goods in those segments to at least partially offset the cost of their incarceration. If the work has rehabilitative effect, as Moses and Smith suggest, so much the better.


Daily work is as necessary for a healthy mind as food and water. But it's hard to remember that when the alarm clock goes off at 5AM or a prison guard tells you to do something. For most of us, maturity, allows us to overcome our displeasure with this needed daily need.

I think that Louisiana has a well-developed prison industry system. Is there any research that shows the impact on the recidivism rate?

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