A national clearinghouse created by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and now operated as a public service by Community Resource Services, Inc.

Jail Industry

The definition used by federal initiatives holds that a jail industry:

 “uses jail inmate labor, to create a product or deliver a service, that has value, and for which inmates receive some form of compensation.”

Under this definition, when an inmate works in the kitchen helping to serve food, and is giving extra visits or additional commissary items, a jail industry at work. A national survey estimated that jail inmates deliver as many hours annually as paid jail staff. Many jails have found creative ways to involve more inmates, increase efficiency, and operate more responsibly. The National Jail Work and Industry Center was created to help jails move forward with appropriate use of inmate labor.


Key information and tools have been assembled to provide guidance to those who are interested in expanding the use of inmate labor.


1. Developing a Jail Industry, A Workbook. Step-by-step instructions for building a strong foundation and involving the community. Click Here

2. Business Planning Workbook for Jail Industries. To be used with the “developing” workbook, provides a fill-in-the-blank approach to making sound financial evaluations of potential work projections. Click Here

3. Work in America’s Jails. A national survey of jail work activities. Click Here

4. Franklin County (PA) Foundation Decisions. The final reported, adopted by county officials, that was developed in 7 meetings with a broad-based citizens committee, using the process outlined in the Workbook. Includes meeting notes and agendas. Click Here

5. Managing Conditions of Confinement to Motivate Inmates. How to use the privileges and facilities that you have to more consistently motivate inmates to become engaged in work activities and programs. Provides useful forms and a simple process. Click Here

6. Economics of Inmate Workforce Participation. Summary of the findings from a national conference that examined the question “what if inmates were allowed to participate in the free-world economy?” Four nationally-known economists offer their independent conclusions. Click Here

7. Finding Resources for Jail Work and Industry Programs. Practical tips and shopping lists to help you find what you need– staff, space, equipment, materials, time, and more–without having to buy it. Click Here

8. Description of 31 Jail Industries Programs from NCIA Conference St. Louis. Prior to participating in the NCIA conference, 31 of the leading jail programs in the United States completed a detailed inventory that described their policies and operations. This document presents a series of tables that compare and contrast the findings—inmate pay, location of industries, customers and much more. Click Here

9. Jail Work and Industries Scrapbook. This is an article published in American Jails magazine in 2010 presenting photos from various jail industries programs. Click Here

10. Post-Release Performance of Inmates in Industries. Longitudinal study that followed inmates in several states after release from prison. Those who had participated in private sector industries programs had the most success after release, followed by those who participated in traditional industries. Inmates who did not participate in any type of industry program had the highest recidivism rates. Click Here

 11. Operating Jail Industries– A Resource Manual.  416 Pages. Provides in-depth information and guidance for all aspects of operating a jail industry program. Includes sample policies and procedures, and a sample business plan.  Operating a Jail Industries Program Resource Guide 1990

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