Illinois Department of Corrections Disrupts Inmate Work Business Model | national news

(The Center Square) – As an inmate of an Illinois state prison, having a job while incarcerated is considered a privilege.

About 1,100 men and women – of the approximately 40,000 inmates at Illinois State Prison – are able to leave their cells during the day to work in prison stores on prison grounds.

Jobs in prison pay much less than minimum wage – around $ 0.30 to $ 2.25 an hour. Typical work ranges from packing bratwurst and assembling glasses to making brooms and assembling furniture.

Illinois Correctional Industries (ICI), a program of the Illinois Department of Corrections (DOC), oversees prison labor programs. Jared Brunk, executive director of ICI, said the Illinois Department of Corrections has deepened the focus of ICI’s prison employment programs. As a result, DOC reassessed ICI’s business model and decided to change the focus of the program from contract labor to vocational training.

“With the leadership of Director (Rob) Jefferies and the other administrators in the department, we are trying to be transformative,” Brunk said.

Part of the effort is to realign ICI’s vocational training with state industries, Brunk said.

“We want to bring industries into the professional programming continuum,” he said.

One participating company is construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar Inc.

“We purchased 20 full-fledged CAT certified simulators – just like you would see at a community college or vocational school,” Brunk said. “People who use these simulators will actually get a certificate that shows they have that many hours of training on the simulator and the metrics that go with it.”

When the inmate is released from prison, he will be able to show a potential employer that he has certified simulator training on how to operate bulldozers, earthmovers and other large Caterpillar equipment.

“We really want the industry program to take the lead in being the catalyst for getting certificates from the US Department of Labor for people in custody,” Brunk said.

The vision is that ICI’s new career direction will eventually provide training in mechanics, heavy equipment operation, HVAC maintenance and repair, logistics support, basic computer functions, welding and other in-demand skills that can lead to good jobs. paid, he said.

The jobs that prison workshops offer today do not require a high level of training.

“Several of our stores were getting pre-fabricated products and they were breaking those products into smaller boxes – essentially acting as a middleman between the main manufacturer and customers in the state,” Brunk said. “These types of programs don’t provide the type of training that meets the needs of today’s workforce.

The aim of vocational training is to give prisoners a new path to follow, so that when they leave prison they do not reoffend and are not sent back to prison. Inmates who are part of existing ICI programs are much less likely to commit crimes upon release than inmates in the general prison population, Brunk said.


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