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Private Sector Prison Industries: A Summary of Findings

NCJ Number
Date Published
11 pages
This report summarizes the findings of two research projects, one focusing on the impact of private-sector correctional industries on incarceration costs and the other examining the potential of substituting domestic prison labor for Mexican labor in certain industrial settings.
The analysis of impacts on corrections costs used data from seven sites in Nevada, Oregon, and South Carolina. Results revealed that the total public sector return on investment was positive for all but the customer model operations and the Jostens operation in South Carolina. Institutional returns on investment were positive in four cases and negative in three. The analysis also revealed the difficulty of making generalizations, although the quantity and quality of data were surprisingly good. Space was a significant cost factor. The second study examined the feasibility of marketing prison-based labor, at or above the Federal minimum wage, to companies currently operating in Mexico under the Maquiladora program that use a workforce with few skills and have labor-intensive production processes. The results revealed that private-sector prison industries cannot compete with Mexico on the basis of labor costs alone, although United States companies currently employing Maquiladora workforces may consider employing United States prison-based workforces under certain conditions.

Date Published: January 1, 1987