Federal Prisons can Become Factories Behind Bars

Former DOL Economists from Clinton and Bush Administrations Agree Inmate Work Programs Teach Job Skills, Reduce Crime; Businesses Can Create Civilian Jobs by Employing Inmates

WASHINGTON, D.C. (September 29, 2003) -- In conjunction with a bipartisan effort to reform federal prison industries (FPI), two former chief economists at the Department of Labor (DOL) in the Clinton and Bush administrations will address a Capitol Hill briefing tomorrow on the critical importance of inmate work programs and HR 1829, which is currently headed for a floor vote.

The briefing is tomorrow, Sept. 30 at 10:00 a.m., at Rayburn House Office Building - 2226. The economists will offer recommendations to improve work programs that are especially important in light of the issues that will be raised at a Small Business Committee hearing on the federal industries program now scheduled for the next day.

"Because HR 1829 severely limits the federal work program, it will cause an increase in crime," said Morgan Reynolds, former DOL chief economist during the Bush Administration and currently NCPA Senior Fellow. "It's better called the 2003 Increase in Crime Act." In calling for reform of FPI, Harry Holzer, former DOL chief economist during the Clinton Administration, agreed: "Losing jobs affects the safety of prison staff and the inmates, and frustrates rehabilitation efforts that reduce recidivism."

The Enterprise Prison Institute (EPI) and the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA). are briefing sponsors. Knut A. Rostad, president of EPI, will also release a paper at the briefing on how the private sector employment of inmates can spur domestic civilian job growth.

Holzer and Reynolds also agree HR 1829 is bad economic policy, because it fails to let businesses operate inmate work programs that can spur American job growth. "In today's global economy, American companies employing inmate workers can compete against some Mexican and Chinese production and bring American jobs home to the civilian workforce. We know this because of the companies partnering with the state prisons today. To prohibit the federal system from partnering with companies to bring jobs home is just wrong-headed," Reynolds added.