In the Texas prison system’s Wynne Unit, home of one of the state’s two computer repair labs, each month inmate workers fix or discard up to 250,000 pounds of malfunctioning equipment, reports the Houston Chronicle. In a state whose prison work programs are best known for agriculture and license plates, the computer shops represent the cutting edge of a factory system that produces everything from street signs to mattresses for state college dorms and soap for scrubbing jailhouse floors.
Texas Correctional Industries factories in 37 prisons provide job training for up to 5,200 inmates and help cut costs for cities, counties, schools, and other tax-supported entities. Barbara Belbot, an associate criminal justice professor at the University of Houston Downtown said, “You’ve got to keep these guys working, right? It’s hard to keep these guys busy. You’ve got to come up with the right mix of work activities.” Kevin Von Rosenberg, work and training division manager, said that in the 156,000-inmate system, up to 24 percent of those released from prison return within three years. Among the inmate workers who stay on the job the longest, recidivism drops to 11 percent.