R Street: The Future of Prison Work: Private Employment Behind Bars

For many of America’s prisoners, life after prison can mean perpetual unemployment, as approximately 600,000 return home each year—many without job prospects. In fact, a study published in 2018 found that almost half of formerly incarcerated individuals reported no earnings within the first three years after release. For those who were able to secure work, earnings were dismal: the median individual earned only $10,090 in the first full calendar year after release. Such data clearly demonstrates that there is a disconnect between the work offered in prisons and meaningful, sustaining employment outside their walls.

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