Making crime pay

With some 2.2 million people incarcerated in the United States, it seems to me that The United States is missing out on an excellent way to make prisons a lucrative industry.

In 2008, in California, it cost roughly $47,000 to house one inmate annually. (
The annual income for a person making $15 an hour, and working a 40 hour week is just $31,000 before taxes.

What we need to do is turn our prisons into factories, and farms, and start using prisoners to do the work that is now being done by illegal aliens, migrant workers, or is being sent to foreign countries.

Offer inmates an opportunity to learn something while they pay their debt to society. Give them an opportunity to earn some money, and have a little pride in themselves.

It has long been said that prisons are supposed to be a chance for law breakers to rehabilitate whenever possible. What better way is there to do that, than to let them learn a REAL trade?

What industries are still set in The United States and employ US citizens? Pulp and paper jobs are being lost to the Canadians. Fruits and vegetables that are grown in The United States are often harvested by migrant workers, or illegal aliens. Our commercial fishing industry is being overwhelmed by Chinese fleets. Our automotive factories, textile mills, shoe factories, canneries, and tanneries are all being mothballed one by one as they get bought out by large corporations that send the labor to countries with lower labor costs.

Imagine abandoned sections of cities like Detroit becoming a large privately owned prison complex where prisoners work in the steel mills, or make cars and trucks.

Wisconsin already has more than 30 correctional facilities. Imagine if those facilities were moved to giant prison farms!

Prisoners could man fishing vessels, seafood processing vessels, oil rigs, and container ships.

Prisoners can make shoes, clothing, appliances, sporting goods, toys the possibilities are endless, but instead they sit in over crowded facilities, and learn how to become better criminals.

This wont be an over night game changer, but implementing some new laws on how US corporations do business would be a good place to start.

Fine companies that sell goods in the US, but are made by foreign labor. Offer tax incentives to companies that open prison factories and farms.  Bring back hefty import taxes. Buying foreign made goods should be a luxury.  Instead it is cheaper to import! It is absolutely absurd that a gallon apple juice made with apples from four different countries is cheaper than a gallon of apple juice I can buy from the orchard a few miles from my house!

Since tax payers already pay for the prison system as it is now, let the prison factories and farms start out with the tax payers footing the bill initially, and as they start to profit, let the owners gradually take over 100%. Keep the wages earned by prisoners low enough to keep business owners happy, but allow the prisoners to earn money they can save, as well as purchase commissary items. Ensure that prisoners leaving the facility have an opportunity to work within their particular field as foremen, and supervisors.

Maybe when we bring some industry back to The United States, and we give our prisoners something to work for while they are doing their time, and a job to look forward to after they have literally paid their debt to society, we can start reducing the number of repeat offenders.

I dunno? Seems like an easy, and logical solution to me!

Doug Alley

About Doug Alley

I grew up in Bath, Maine in an upper lower class family with 3 step sisters, a step brother, and a little sister. After high school I spent 3 years serving in the USAF at Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage AK. I've competed in, and won, demolition derbies. I've competed in, and never won, stock car races. I am the 47-year-old father of an 11-year-old boy who is pretty sure he is smarter than I ever was. We live on a little less than an acre of land in a 1973 mobile home in Stetson with my wife Jen, some cats, a few chickens, and rabbits, and a couple of goats. I hunt, fish, camp out, dabble in photography, gardening, and I cook in variable degrees of near success.