Working in Jail: The Guide to Inmate Employment

Working in Jail: The Guide to Inmate Employment

For those staying in county or city jail, sentences are typically short–not more than one year at most. However, even with a relatively short sentence, having activities such as a work program may be a welcome way to pass the time. Plus, work programs offer several potential benefits to inmates, including a reduced sentence or the ability to keep their job outside of the jail. 

Since county jails are generally used for short-term stays, the kinds of work programs available vary widely depending on the facility. For some inmates housed in county jails, there may not be many options. However, for others, there could be some great work opportunities that may be advantageous for inmates. We'll go over some of the possible inmate employment opportunities in a city or county jail. 

The Difference Between County Jails and Prisons

Some people may think that jails and prisons can be used interchangeably. However, there are some slight differences between the two terms. In prison, all inmates have been sentenced to a crime. These sentences are typically for serious offenses that carry a year or more of time served. 

In comparison, county or city jails house everyone who has not yet been sentenced to a crime. Additionally, jails also house people who have short-term, low-level offenses. An example of this type of sentence is an inmate serving a three-month sentence for a non-violent crime. 

Because of these differences, the opportunities available to inmates typically aren't the same at these institutions. Inmates who are facing long sentences will have more programs and resources available during their incarceration. Since inmates housed in county jails aren't staying for a long time, there are fewer programs available to them. However, some county jails offer work programs, including in-jail work assignments and work release programs.

Work Release Program

What is a work release program for county jail inmates? Inmates convicted of a short, non-violent offense may be eligible to participate in the county jails' work release program. With this program, inmates will apply to continue working at their current jobs outside of the jail facility. This program is particularly beneficial to inmates who have financial obligations to their families. With this program, inmates will be able to maintain their careers while serving their sentences. 

What does work release entail? Though inmates are allowed a certain degree of autonomy with this type of program, there are strict procedures and policies that inmates must adhere to. Failure to comply with the rules may result in an inmate's removal from the program. 

In general, work release programs at jails follow the same set of rules. An inmate must drive their own car to their pre-approved work location at the designated time. An inmate may not detour or leave the work area once on the clock. Inmates will be responsible for obtaining their own lunch and may visit a nearby restaurant (provided that it doesn't serve alcohol). An inmate will need to drive the pre-approved route back to the jail. There are strictly enforced time periods for work release. If an inmate doesn't return back to jail on time, it will likely result in disciplinary consequences or removal from the program.

In-Jail Work Programs

Some county jails offer in-jail work programs. This type of inmate employment may include maintenance-type tasks at the jail or county/city property. Some of the work assignments might include gardening, snow removal, trash pick-up, and other assigned manual labor tasks. Inmates may be drawn to this type of inmate employment program, as performing this type of work may result in reduced sentencing. It's also a way for inmates to stay busy, as life in jail can be dull without activities and work to do. 

If inmates want to be approved for this type of work, they'll need to undergo a medical exam. Since most of the jobs are manual labor, an inmate will need to be cleared by medical staff to determine if they're fit and healthy enough to do the work. Besides passing a medical exam, an inmate will also need to pass a background check. Inmates with a background that includes violent offenses, a history of escaping, or sex and drug-related crimes will likely not be approved for these types of work assignments while at a county jail.

The Benefits of Working While Incarcerated

There are many benefits of working while incarcerated. If you or someone you love may be facing incarceration at the county jail, there are some inmate employment opportunities that you should look into. These programs can help an inmate maintain a sense of normalcy and also keep their minds occupied if they're serving multiple months in jail.

Applying for a work release program is a great idea for inmates who have stable jobs when convicted of a crime. This program allows inmates to maintain their current job, support their families, and pay fines and court costs. This is an all-around good situation, as inmates will be able to pay their debt to society while also keeping up their personal life, thereby reducing recidivism rates. 

Additionally, some county jails may offer in-jail work programs that may result in reduced sentencing. If an inmate doesn't apply for work release, opting for this type of inmate employment may be the best option to stay busy and get out of jail sooner than expected. 

While there are many potential benefits from working while incarcerated, the kinds of opportunities will vary depending on the county jail. If you're wondering whether a specific county jail offers these types of programs, check out their website. You can look up county jails with our search function.