The federal prison system's most successful education and reentry program has “dramatically” shrunk in recent years, leaving more than 10,000 inmates on a waiting list for prison jobs and educational training, reports the Washington Post. As thousands of federal inmates are being released early starting today, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said the Bureau of Prisons vocational and educational program known as Federal Prison Industries (FPI) has been reduced to half the size it was 10 years ago. The program gives inmates the opportunity to build products such as furniture and electronics, while also earning money to pay court-ordered obligations. DOJ will try to retool the program, which has been hurt by declining demand.
“Inmates who participate in FPI are significantly less likely to recidivate after returning home and more likely to get a job after prison,” Yates said yesterday at Columbia Law School. “While FPI is a great recidivism-reduction program, reduced demand for its products and services has caused it to dramatically shrink over the past few years.” About 40 percent of federal prisoners and two-thirds of those released from state prisons will re-offend within three years, she said. Yates's acknowledgment suggests that even as the Obama administration has called for reducing the incarceration rate, the government may not have adequate programs for helping inmates prepare for life after prison. Inmates “are clamoring for the opportunity to develop these much-needed job skills,” and the program has a waiting list of 10,800 inmates who want to participate but can't get in because there are not enough spots. Yates said that as far as prison literacy programs, too many inmates leave without “access to the most basic of life skills — the ability to read.”