Working While in Prison; What to Expect

You might have heard the old cliché that prisoners make license plates. While this is true, this isn’t the only thing prisoners produce. While in prison, you can work on building desks, stitching flags, molding dentures, and upholstering chairs. You will also be expected to work in the kitchen, do laundry, clean, and transcribe textbooks into brail.

Where are you likely to work?

Your area of expertise and whether you have any professional skills or not determines where you are likely to work. However, if you don’t have any skills, the kitchen may be the first place you will land. If you are a new inmate, a unit counselor may give you the freedom to choose where you want to work before you are assigned a role.

When can you be exempted from working?

Typically, people believe that prisoners don’t work, probably because of watching too many movies. The truth is, Colorado Federal Prisons expect you to work unless you have a medical condition that prevents you from working. Even then, you will still be assigned light duties, such as dusting, cleaning windows, and wiping tables.

Will you get paid?

Yes, you will earn some money, but you shouldn’t expect anything lucrative. In fact, you will earn less than minimum wage. In most cases, you should expect anything from $8 to around $15 a month. While this isn’t anything to brag about, you can join a Prison Industry Enhancement Work Program (PIE) or a traditional Industry program (TI) where you work for private companies and, thus, earn more.

According to the bureau of justice statistics, inmates who work while in prison have an easier time during re-entry than those who don’t work. This is especially true if you work in a PIE or TI program. Working helps you practice life, technical skills and prepares you to handle responsibilities outside prison.

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