The Issues and Problems Associated with Industries

The issues and problems concerning private industries are as numerous as the advantages raised earlier. A Canadian survey of a wide range of community groups, including business and labour, found widespread support for paying inmates and allowing inmate produced goods to be sold on the open market. However, support was shown only as long as these products were not subsidized or given any other unfair advantage. There is a worry that prison industries are taking jobs away from non-incarcerated labourers and, if so, how this will be reconciled or justified (Sigler & Stough, 1991). Also, will the government employees currently managing industries be made redundant?

Critics question how the institution will find a compromise among the goals of security, profit and rehabilitation. Which goal will become primary, or must any one of them be primary? Auerbach (1993) questioned whether the development of inmate skills by the corrections departments would be sacrificed in an attempt to avoid the violence feared from widespread idleness. Auerbach (1993) suggested many factors that contribute to private sector reluctance to become involved with the prison:

  • high inmate turnover;
  • high inmate training costs;
  • prison procedures and policies inhibit the movement of workers, staff and materials;
  • fear over potential accusations of exploitation; and
  • fear of the prison setting.

How are the partnerships regulated to avoid exploitation of prison workers (Shichor, 1995)? Many wonder whether room and board, restitution, or funds for support of family members should be deducted from the inmates’ wages. If so, would it be at such a rate that the incentive to earn would still be present? As well, the question of how the industry will provide incentives to inmate workers has been raised. Should these incentives be mandatory or credited for good behaviour? Is it fair to link incentives to production? Many factors of prison life (lock downs and counts) are beyond the control of the inmate, yet will affect the productivity.

Grieser (1996)stated that partnerships create many challenges that should not be underestimated. The risks for correctional agencies would most likely include:

  • the significant investment of time, energy and resources involved in planning;
  • at lease some loss of control over correctional industries;
  • potential failure;
  • recruitment of an unworthy partner; and
  • complaints from firms not selected for partnership (p. 44).