The Georgia prison system wants some inmates to help pay for room and board, says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. First it needs to find a way for them to make money. Georgia is one of only three states, including Arkansas and Texas, where inmates are paid nothing for their work. Georgia corrections officials are pushing legislation that would allow private industries to build factories on prison grounds and pay inmates to work in them. The inmates would help defray the roughly $18,000 a year it costs to house, care for and feed them. Part of their salaries would go to pay victim restitution or child support, if ordered by the courts. Inmates would be allowed to keep at least 20 percent of their earnings.
Prison officials are promoting the federal Prison Industry Enhancement Program, already in place in 39 states. The wages earned by inmates aren’t likely to put much of a dent in the state’s $882 million annual prison budget. Since the program started in 1979, inmates have earned more than $300 million, of which only $82 million has been returned to states for room and board. Another $28 million has gone to crime victims. Georgia inmates are issued a one-way bus ticket, $25 and a change of civilian clothes on release. “It’s going to be hard to argue that $25 and a bus ticket is not a return ticket back to prison,” said a state official.