Correctional Industries Helps Solve Hawaii's Labor Shortage

Article excerpt

The recent downturn in tourism, Hawaii' s main revenue source, has resulted in no-growth budgets for state agencies. Even though crowding in Hawaii's jails and prisons is a growing problem, the state's Department of Public Safety has been asked to deal with a ballooning number of inmates with less program monies.

Because of its island economy, Hawaii faces economic trends that often run counter to the rest of the country. Hawaii, for instance, has a low unemployment rate, and entry level jobs are hard to fill. Most products are acquired off island and are very expensive. These problems have created an opportunity for Correctional Industries in Hawaii to form partnerships with government agencies, nonprofits and the private sector to fill product and service voids.

In fiscal year 1991, Hawaii's Correctional Industries employed 56 inmates. By 1994, that number had jumped to over 400. This growth is the result of a strategic plan that identified the types of work programs available to offenders and analyzed product and service requirements. On the basis of this plan, three innovative work programs were developed and expanded: Community Work Industries, Traditional Industries and Private Sector/Correctional Industries Joint Ventures.

Community Work Industries

In Hawaii, Community Work Industries is designed and managed to provide services to the inmate's resident community at a reduced cost. Public and nonprofit agencies hire inmates to work on-site at their location. The participating agency or organization provides work supervision and pays inmates' wages, which range from one dollar per hour up to a maximum of minimum wage. An adult correctional officer may be required to supervise, depending on the number of offenders employed and their classification.

During fiscal year 1994, more than 50 inmates were employed in Community Work Industries on projects that included maintenance and repair work for the Hawaii Air National Guard, building stage sets for a local theater, and providing Meals on Wheels to senior citizens.

Traditional Industries

Traditional Industries works with tax-supported agencies and nonprofit organizations with the goal of reducing their cost of goods and services. The program provides job training and work experience for 250 inmates, and funds from the sale of their goods and services are allocated to support their activities. The inmates earn between 38 cents and two dollars an hour. Through this program, a substantial amount of money is saved from the Department of Public Safety's operating budget. The cost of alternative programs for this many inmates would be prohibitively high.

Printing. One area that Traditional Industries is very active in is printing. Hawaii does not have a state printing operation. By law, state agencies must have their printing done by Correctional Industries unless they seek and receive approval to use a private sector printer. Updated equipment and implementation of a state-of-the-art printing operation have increased Correctional Industries' printing capacity and brought the printing operation up to standards in compliance with the state mandate. As a result of the updated equipment, Correctional Industries formed a partnership with the Department of Taxation and printed more than 500,000 1994 Hawaii state tax forms. This print job brought in $1.4 million in revenue for the state. These forms previously had been printed on the mainland.

Computer Programming. Them is a public perception that Correctional Industries provides busywork to reduce idleness and train inmates in skills that do not prepare them for gainful employment, such as manufacturing license plates. In reality, Correctional Industries administrators strive to develop programs using state-of-the-art technology that will provide inmates with skills necessary to secure employment when they return to the community. While growth in this area is slow, there is a national trend to expand in high-tech operations. …