UCI Saves Taxpayer Money, Helps Offenders Succeed
Utah Correctional Industries plays a vital role both within the Utah Department of Corrections and the state.
UCI employs both inmate workers and certified officers to create affordable products and services geared toward state government, local government, non-profits, and quasi-governmental agencies (such as Utah Transit Authority). In doing so, UCI helps these agencies properly manage their tax-funded budgets for the benefit of their constituents.
UCI does not receive allocations from the state’s General Fund. Any money UCI makes from its products and services goes right back into its own operations. And it achieves all this while helping offenders learn valuable skills that ultimately aid them in succeeding once released to their communities. Moreover, UCI strives to do this while respecting its delicate relationship with the business community.
UCI's focus and impacts are, essentially, three-fold:
— Save taxpayers money
— Help offenders succeed
— Sustain these efforts without detracting from the private sector
Private Sector Balance
Utah Correctional Industries employs offenders in various trades while they are still incarcerated. This includes a vast array of shops, ranging from embroidery, printing and sewing to asbestos abatement and demolishing buildings.
While there is nothing in law precluding UCI from doing business with individuals or companies in the private sector, UCI respects the local business community and seeks to avoid detracting from their profit-making endeavors. UCI maintains a gentleman’s agreement with the private sector and does not actively seek out clients beyond its public sector jobs. UCI will respond to incoming calls and website queries from the broader community, but it has chosen not to advertise or proactively take work away from local businesses by touting its operations and services.
Consider these revenue figures from two of UCI’s shops between 2008 and 2012:
$104,860 private sector revenues, 2008-2012 ($20,972 per year)
$2,852,926 public sector revenues, 2008-2012
(Just 3.7 percent of these jobs were private sector work.)
$31,133 private sector revenues, 2008-2012 ($6,226 per year)
$9,005,362 public sector revenues, 2008-2012
(Less than 1 percent, or more precisely 0.3 percent, of these jobs were private sector work.)
In these fields, UCI made just $27,000 per year from the private industry. While that might be significant for a personal budget, it is modest for an entire business or operation.
UCI also regularly receives confirmation from Workforce Services that its operations are not adversely impacting the private sector (the last came in 2012). Utah Correctional industries is required by state law to hold public hearings soliciting input when opening a new industry.
The federal Prison Industry Enhancement (PIE) program places additional checks on Correctional Industries. The Department of Justice closely monitors worker wages, benefits, wage deductions, and ensures UCI consults with labor, local private businesses and doesn’t displace non-inmate workers.
UCI has no interest in expanding into the private sector since, unlike private businesses, UCI does not give executive bonuses or financial incentives to employees. Incoming work orders only help ensure inmates have continued opportunities to learn job skills.
Help Offenders Succeed
One of the apparent values of UCI is that it can serve as a management tool for incarcerated offenders. Inmates who are busy working these jobs are less likely to act out in negative ways — partly because they don’t have as much free time on their hands, and partly because they have something valuable they could lose (a UCI job). Regardless of the type of work an inmate performs for UCI, the work provides structure to their lives, teaches them a solid work ethic, the importance of punctuality, and other skills that broadly translate to any job.
Inmates often seek out UCI jobs and must apply/interview for these positions just as workers do in the outside world. UCI pays higher wages than standard prison tier-worker jobs. UCI’s federally PIE-certified shops pay prevailing wages (often upwards of $8-$9 per hour). PIE shops focus on interstate commerce and perform work for out-of-state companies, which would not send their business to Utah were it not for the presence of UCI. Eighty percent of those wages can be garnished to pay restitution to crime victims, or other costs the offender owes to the state. This means UCI is also helping to make crime victims financially whole.
Once the offender leaves prison, they have many more skills on their tool belt if they’ve taken part in UCI programs. Finding a job is one of the main stumbling blocks offenders will face upon their release from custody. Carrying the stigma of a felony record is often a deal-breaker when offenders seek work. With the help of UCI’s real-world training environment, combined with offender employment task force agents working in the community to connect offenders to jobs, offenders have heightened odds of finding work.
When offenders find employment, they are more likely to be able to afford steady housing, pay supervision fees and restitution, and generally support their families. When offenders can do this legitimately, they are likewise less inclined to revert back to a life of crime and making money through illegitimate ventures. This means they are more likely to become taxpaying, productive members of our community and less likely to end up back in prison, continuing to live off of the taxpayers.