Offenders at Work

The Idaho Department of Correction strives to keep offenders busy in education, treatment or work. Offenders in institutional jobs and on work crews are not employees and do not enjoy any of the benefits provided to employees in public jobs. Many offenders lack job skills. Learning to work with others, follow instructions and put forth earnest effort are valuable skills that many offenders need to be successful after their release. With the money earned offenders can send money home, pay restitution, child support and purchase items from the commissary. If the IDOC has a court order, for child support, restitution, etc. a percentage of the offender’s earnings is deducted automatically.

Institutional Work Detail: Many offenders' first job is on institutional labor detail. The institutional labor detail (ILD) is a crew of offenders whose primary job is to maintain large areas such as prison grounds and parking areas. ILD workers are normally not paid for their work, but good performance on ILD is often required before an offender will be considered for an institutional work assignment.

Institutional Workers: With the exception of security, IDOC utilizes offenders to work in most areas of the correctional facilities’ operations. For example one staff member will supervise the food service operation, but all of the workers are offenders. Skilled employees fill maintenance positions, but supervise a crew of offender workers who do much of the maintenance on facilities, vehicles and grounds. The Bureau of Prisons employs no janitorial staff; all of that work is done by offenders.

Vocational Work Projects: Unlike ILD and institutional workers, vocational work crews leave the facility to work. Vocational work crews are comprised of minimum and community custody offenders. ICIO, SICI, PWCC and SAWC operate vocational work projects. Vocational work projects are crews supervised by security staff. Vocational work projects such as forest fire and conservation crews provide much needed labor to state, city, county and federal government agencies. Working on a vocational work crew is an achievement for the offender. Not only is it the best paying job other than work release, it also provides a great sense of accomplishment. For example, IDOC fire fighting crews fight fires alongside civilian crews and are often ranked as some the best crews on any fire.

Correctional Industries: Correctional Industries teaches job-keeping skills to offenders through meaningful work experience. This work experience reduces offenders' idle time during incarceration while preparing them for a successful transition into society. CI's website shows the many products they make. The Prison Industry Enhancement is a federal program that allows prison inmates the opportunity to work for private industry in hard to fill positions. The program benefits the offender and the employer. These are real jobs in the community that provide offenders valuable opportunities to learn marketable skills. The St. Anthony Work Camp operates a PIE program in conjunction with an employer in Rexburg.

Community Work Centers: When minimum and community custody offenders near release, they may have the opportunity to be housed in a community work center (CWC) and obtain work in the community. Offenders on work release are employed by businesses in the community. Many of these offenders will be released to that community and will maintain the job they first obtained while still incarcerated. CWCs are located in Idaho Falls, Twin Falls, Pocatello, Boise (2), and Nampa.

Pay: The amount offenders are paid and the source of the funds varies depending on the type of job.

  1. Prison Facilities: With the exception of ILD workers, offender workers may receive incentive pay. The money used for incentive pay normally comes from the inmate management fund, which is generated by revenues from prison telephones, commissary, etc. Incentive pay runs from 10 cents an hour for low-skill jobs to 30 cents an hour for high-skill jobs. At work camps and CWCs institutional workers receive slightly higher pay.
  2. Vocational Work Crews: Vocational work crews work under a contract with a hiring agency. Vocational work crews are self-sufficient, which means that the crew generates enough revenue to pay for the supervising staff, offender incentive pay and other costs associated with the operation of the crew such as tools, vehicles, etc.
  3. Work Release and PIE: Work release offenders and PIE workers are employees of the business and are paid at least minimum wage. The employer sends the offender’s paycheck to IDOC. Offenders on work release pay IDOC over a third of their pay. Offenders on work release also pay fees to cover their transportation, laundry, etc. Offenders working PIE are also employees, and paid at least minimum wage. Offenders on PIE jobs pay over half of their gross pay back to the PIE program.
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