LIBA encourages city to look at inmate jail labor for budget savings – May 15, 2012

The Lincoln Independent Business Association (LIBA) would like to encourage the City to pursue a policy similar to the Lancaster County Board's policy that allows the use of inmate labor. 

The Lancaster County Board has used inmate labor in several ways. For example, Don Killeen, director of Public Building Commission, uses inmate labor for maintenance of the many buildings within his jurisdiction. Don Thomas, county engineer, uses inmate labor to assist in his responsibilities with vehicle maintenance. In addition, the Lancaster County Board has used inmate labor for demolition, county road cleanup and maintenance, and for all other purposes for which the county sees fit.

Some of the benefits of inmate labor are quantified in the 2000 edition of the Jail Work Report by the Washington State Jail Industries Board. A summary of the report indicates that offenders worked 3.7 million labor hours without pay. Calculated at a minimum wage of $6.50 per hour, $21.9 million in value was returned toWashingtontaxpayers.1 In addition, almost 73 percent of reported inmate labor hours offset the costs of incarceration inWashingtonjails.2

Another report indicates that North Carolinasaved an estimated $89 million between 1997 and 2007 from the implementation of its inmate work program.3 In 2011, the South Mississippi Correctional Institution provided nearly 74,000 man hours of free labor valued at about $535,000, which benefited severalMississippi counties and municipalities.4 

 LIBA recognizes that the City may have some concerns with putting inmates to work. However, the county has been successfully doing it for years, primarily to assist with vehicle maintenance and demolition, as well as grounds maintenance needs. The county has also offered in public meetings to work with the City to facilitate such a program. LIBA encourages the City of Lincoln to explore the options availablle for implementing an inmate labor program by doing a cost-benefit analysis.

In addition, we encourage the City to explore which departments would benefit from this program. A few suggestions include the following: Park grounds maintenance, public works, vehicle maintenance, facilities maintenance, and library grounds maintenance. LIBA appreciates your consideration of this opportunity to help save the City money and provide more ways to beautify and improve the City of Lincoln.

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1. The Jail Work Report is a summary of the work performed by offenders housed in city and county jails in WashingtonState. Work performed by offenders in lieu of incarceration was also reported. All 39 counties reported information, along with 23 cities and eight tribal facilities; full report available at http://www.jib.wa.gov/statestats/execsum00.html.

2. Id.

3. http://www.doc.state.nc.us/DOP/CWPJOBS/cwplabor.htm.

4. http://www.mdoc.state.ms.us/inmate_work_crews.htm.