When we go back in history, there was a time when those incarcerated would receive vocational training, such as wood shop, electric shop, metal shop, upholstery, plumbing, gardening, and most importantly learn any other skill that would increase their basic knowledge, enhance their self esteem, provide an opportunity for a more positive transition to life outside of prison or jail, and decrease recidivism.
Unfortunately, as the budgets for nearly everything else seem to have increased, the amount allocated to skills building activities within the penal system has substantially decreased and to some extent has become nonexistent.
Recently, with the devastating wildfires, inmates have been allowed to volunteer to assist in fighting these catastrophic disasters throughout California. It has been reported the savings to taxpayers has been in the millions of dollars. Inmates get paid a $1. an hour for fighting the fires, and two days off their sentence while serving in this capacity (in contrast for one day off a sentence for each day of good behavior.
Some commentators object to this policy as they believe the prisoners are being treated as a “captive labor force.”Although there are clearly disadvantages to the utilization of inmates to fight wildfires, there are countless proponents who believe the benefits far outweigh any drawbacks.
Only more time and continued [forensic] studies will produce reliable data evidencing the nature and extent of support and/or activities associated with time spent in prison or jail greatly enhance an inmate’s knowledge, social, physical, vocational, emotional and other positive skills, contributing to unprecedented levels of rehabilitation.