Background: The Bureau of Prisons manages over 200,000 inmates, about one tenth of whom, as employees of Federal Prison Industries (FPI), are currently productively engaged in manufacturing. All of us have a fundamental need to play a meaningful role in society, and prison inmates are no exception. Learning how to play a constructive role in society is a key element of rehabilitation. In many cases inmates have never held a meaningful occupation in their entire life.
Idea: The Bureau should solicit suggestions from the general public on new ways to occupy members of the inmate population that produce a meaningful, positive impact on both society and the inmate. These activities would be either voluntary in nature, or would involve some nominal compensation, depending on the nature of the project and how it is funded. Activities might include partnerships with private industry.
Each suggested inmate activity could be rated on how effectively it meets all of these goals: (1) contribute net value directly to society (2) rehabilitate the inmate in mind and soul; and (3) minimize/avoid impact on the federal taxpayer.
(For one small example from the California prison system, search the LA Times online archive, 6/29/1999, for an article by Jenifer Warren on inmates making clothes for premature infants.)