Prison Reform, Meet The Manufacturing Industry.
While at my Rotary Meeting last week the presenter (Jeff) was a very knowledgeable gentleman from the Auto Industry. He discussed the struggles happening now, and what the future holds for the industry. Though the U.S. is experiencing an economic boom of sorts, there are challenges the Auto Industry and manufacturing sector as a whole are dealing with, and frankly its making the top brass, sort of squeamish!
While there are reasons for optimism; such as American output is on the rise which is producing higher wages for Blue-Collar workers, as well as supply chain benefits through a ‘multiplier effect’. The multiplier effect helps create jobs in industries who do business with the manufacturers. Parts suppliers, research and marketing firms, even the local energy provider, stand to benefit from a robust manufacturing sector. According to Forbes, this ‘multiplier effect’ generates $1.40 in output from other sectors of the economy.
Since manufacturing is the lifeblood of any economy, the U.S. being no exception, it cannot survive without a thriving manufacturing sector. Without it, there is little money for things like research and development, and affording the costs involved in migrating to cleaner technologies. We can’t leave it to the bureaucrats to make these decisions because they can’t leave politics out of their decision making process. They also lack the ability to plan for unintended consequences. And rest assured, unintended consequences will happen, remember this boondoggle.
So where do Prison Reform and the manufacturing industry cross paths?
Unfortunately, inmates go to prison and learn how to be good criminals, rather than productive citizens. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything, but serving a sentence leaves you a lot of time to ‘perfect your craft’. What we need is for inmates to spend less time with inmates and more time with positive influences.
Now, there are lots of people who do prison ministries in an effort to provide positive influence, I commend them all! There are also programs meant to do this and help inmates with re-entry into society, such as Project H.O.P.E, The National Reentry Resource Center, and the Prisoner Reentry Institute which are all noble causes. But, one program called Work Release, stands out as a way to alleviate some of the challenges the labor market is experiencing.
Work Release is a concept started in 1913 in Wisconsin meant to help non-violent inmates acquire work skills, become a productive member of society, and potentially land a full time job once they complete their sentence.
How can Work Release benefit the Manufacturing Industry
The economy is booming, and demand for labor is at an all time high, but the labor pool has shrunk. Not a good problem to have in a booming economy! Take a look at the construction industry, they can’t find enough tradesman to complete jobs. As a result, contractors are saying ‘no’ to projects, pricing themselves out of them, or scheduling them so far out into the future their clients forgo doing the project.
Enter Work Release/Prison Reform
We need to find a way to get more inmates to a 9 to 5. Work Release program restrictions need to be ‘softened’, to allow more inmates and companies to benefit. I’m not saying ax murderers need apply, but it seems like more inmates working, creates a Win/Win.
Here in Tennessee
Work Release is working well. According to Jeff at our Rotary Meeting he was ecstatic to have inmates working on the assembly line. They arrive early, are disciplined, hard-working and respectful, and most-certainly happy to be there. All inmates wear an ankle monitors, and none have been convicted of a violent crime, and he has never had anyone run off.
His struggle is employee turnover, so much so, they are not bidding on certain contracts because they cannot count on their manpower. All too often people show up on Monday, and are never seen again.
Relax the guidelines on Work Release programs. Most programs mandate the inmate have between 2 to 24 months left on their sentence, Why? How many more people would qualify if just this were changed to 36 months? 48 months? Re-allocate more federal dollars into these programs, and encourage its benefits. Re-purpose old vacant buildings and turn them into “Half-way” houses to separate non-violent inmates from those with a history of violence.
Prison Reform is an issue which may be able to find bi-partisan support, lets make the most of it. Tell your representatives you want to see a resolution that involves more rehabilitation and more opportunities for non-violent criminals to become productive. If so, everyone wins!
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