States are finding more creative uses for prisoners, from saving retired thoroughbreds in Kentucky to growing poinsettias for state buildings in Iowa, to fighting mudslides in California, says Stateline.org. Prison work programs help local communities, save states millions, and give inmates who are mostly nonviolent offenders something worthwhile to do. Joe Weedon of the American Correctional Association says that some states have expanded their work programs in the past five years discussion of prisoner re-entry into society has intensified.
Prison officials cite success stories such as Kentucky inmates so good with horses that race trainers later hire them; the wheelchair-bound Pennsylvania man who came to a prison to thank the staff for training his Labrador, and the Iowa town so grateful for inmates' help after a tornado that its residents invited inmates to a potluck. It's often seen as a privilege to be accepted for a work crew. “They get to be outside, they enjoy it, and among their peers they feel sort of in an exulted position because it is a real big deal for a person to work,” said Mary Leftridge Byrd of Pennsylvania’s corrections department.