You know that movie cliche about prison inmates making license plates? Well, our prison system—and the inmates themselves—would benefit from a lot more of that kind of thing, writes Nathan Siegel at Ozy. Only a "scant proportion" of inmates have a prison job while locked up, even though research suggests that vocational programs make a difference in helping convicts land a job upon release and thus stay out of jail. Siegel isn't advocating chain gangs busting up rocks along the road, but he thinks there's more room for jobs that help prisoners gain skills and even make a little money.
"Prison exists not just to punish offenders, but to rehabilitate them," writes Siegel. "Mandatory work programs for inmates, provided they’re paid fairly, would go a long way toward giving convicts a sense of purpose, belonging and dignity." At the same time, taxpayers would get a little something back for the $30,000 or so they pay per inmate per year, and, in theory, less crime to deal with because of recidivism. We'd need to be careful to avoid abuses, but more aggressive work programs could be a winner for everyone involved. Click for the full column.