High-Tech Work Programs for Texas Inmates

Broken computers, white-clad technicians, electronics filling work benches - and tattooed prisoners fixing them - paints an unusual picture!

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice houses two computer repair labs, and each month inmate workers either fix or discard over 250,000 pounds of electronic equipment.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is best known for creating work programs that make license plates, street signs, mattresses and soap. This is a forward moving direction for the Texas Correctional Industries. And one of the great benefits of the computer repair work program, is that it provides job training for up to 5,200 inmates. This helps cut costs for tax-supported entities across Texas.

"One of the best ways to help prisoners re-integrate is to teach them how to work, to train and provide them with some sort of skill."

Associate criminal justice professor at the University of Houston-Downtown, Barbara Belbot, states that there are several great work programs in federal prisons throughout the nation. She believes that it is hard to keep prisoners busy, and creating jobs and work activities will help them, not only learn valuable skills that they can use upon release, but also creates shared responsibilities that help with social skills.

Many statistics show that inmates that stay on the prison work programs the longest, recidivism rates can drop as low as 10%.

The Huntsville Correctional Facility in Texas employs 33 inmate technicians that repair computers. Due to statewide budget cuts, many schools and other facilities are in desperate need of computer repairs as their budgets do not allow for them to buy new equipment. The inmate technicians provide a very valuable resource to these clients.