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November 27, 2018 3:00pm

GLI-backed legislation leads to a win-win for employers and ex-offenders

Having trouble finding skilled, reliable employees? Need help with production? Thanks to GLI-backed legislation passed by the General Assembly, there is a new workforce program in Kentucky aimed at addressing both of these problems but has the added benefit of helping prison inmates acquire marketable work skills and earn wages needed to support dependents and pay restitution.

Kentucky’s new Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program, or PIECP, was part of Senate Bill 120, a major piece of criminal justice reform legislation passed in 2017 and supported by GLI. PIECP allows employers to partner with Kentucky Correctional Industries (KCI), a division of the Kentucky Department of Corrections, to employ inmates or purchase materials produced by inmates. Products produced by PIECP can be sold in-state or out-of-state. The program requires employers to pay inmates competitive wages, certify that they will not displace workers in the private sector, and confirm that there is not a labor surplus in their industry.  

Employers interested in PIECP can choose from three different management structures:

  • The Customer Model: KCI handles production and sells the finished goods to the partnering business.
  • The Manpower Model: The employer oversees production and pays KCI a fee to manage labor.
  • The Employer Model: The employer oversees production and labor, including hiring, firing, and training.

Inmates participating in the program learn and develop real-world skills that they can later use to find employment. They are required to dedicate a percentage of the wages they earn in the program to restitution and child support payments and contribute to savings accounts, which can help to provide them with financial stability upon release.

Programs like PIECP are a key example of the types of policies the Commonwealth needs to pursue to boost workforce participation, close skills gaps, and reform our broken criminal justice system. GLI was proud to support Senate Bill 120 in the 2017 legislative session and looks forward to leading the way on similar measures in 2019 and beyond.

Kentucky’s PIECP is currently one of 37 federally-certified state correctional industry programs operating in the United States. Since 1979, these programs have generated $85 million in funds for victim restitution, $272 million to cover corrections costs, $48 million in family support, and $103 million in tax revenue, according to data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance. In addition, data has linked PIECP programs to more successful re-entry experiences and reduced recidivism rates. 

Click the links below to learn more.

Kentucky Correctional Industries Program Brochure 

Bureau of Justice Assistance Program Brief