Prison officials are boosting inmate-labor projects to combat cuts in federal financing and dwindling tax revenue, using prisoners to paint vehicles, clean courthouses, sweep campsites, and perform many other services done before the recession by private contractors or government employees, reports the New York Times. New Jersey inmates clean deer carcasses from highways. Georgia inmates tend municipal graveyards. In Ohio, they paint their own cells. California officials hope to expand programs, including one in which wet-suit-clad inmates repair leaky public water tanks.
“There's special urgency in prisons these days,” said Martin Horn of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, a former corrections commissioner in New York City and Pennsylvania. “As state budgets get constricted, the public is looking for ways to offset the cost of imprisonment.” U.S. Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), has introduced a bill to require low-security prisoners to work 50 hours a week. “Think about how much it costs to incarcerate someone,” Ensign said. “Do we want them just sitting in prison, lifting weights, becoming violent and thinking about the next crime? Or do we want them having a little purpose in life and learning a skill?”