View Full Version : Inmates buy time with goods

07-04-2003, 04:00 PM
July 4, 2003

Inmates buy time with goods
Homes, hats, grills among handiwork
By Jimmie E. Gates

Mississippi prisoners will complete their first model home this month.

It's the first of nine homes inmates will build for low-income residents. The houses, built at the State Penitentiary at Parchman, will be moved to a low-income area. The first house a 1,200-square-foot model with three bedrooms and two baths, will be moved to the Doddsville area near Parchman.

"It's something badly needed," Mississippi Prison Industries CEO John Miller said. "It's improving the quality of life."

The housing project is just one of several new programs Mississippi Prison Industries has started in the last five years. Diversification has been key in the prison program's being successful without any state aid, Miller said.

It's one of only 12 such programs in the country totally self-funded, Miller said. MPIC was created in 1990 by the Legislature.

Some of the items prisoners manufacture include clothing such as inmate and guard uniforms, whimsical hats for hospitalized children, metal and wood benches, barbecue grills, bedding and linen, detention furniture and office furniture. They also have printing and book-binding operations.

"We operate just like a corporation," Miller said.

Mississippi Prison Industries has a staff of 33 and about 485 inmates. The program operates at the state's three prisons Parchman, the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Rankin County and South Mississippi Corrections Institution in Leakesville. It also operates at the Jefferson-Franklin County Regional Corrections Facility in Fayette. MPIC's headquarters is in Jackson.

Inmates, who have to punch a time clock, don't get paid but get 10 days off their sentence for every 30 days worked.

MPIC notifies MDOC it needs prisoners for work projects. MDOC then sends a group of inmates to be interviewed and chosen by MPIC.

Deloris Sprague, 32, participated in the inmate program for about a year when she was incarcerated on a drug conviction.

"It taught me good work ethics," said Sprague, who participated in the program from March 2000 to about March 2001.

Sprague kept up with inventory in the MPIC warehouse. She even learned how to use a computer.

It was the best thing that could have happened to her, Sprague said. She was able to get an office job after she was released from prison after serving three years.

Pat Sanders, assistant placement director, said Sprague had about 2 1/2 months knocked off her sentence by participating in the program.

"They want to see you make something out of your life," Sprague said of Prison Industries officials. "For the first time, I feel like somebody."

The recidivism rate for inmates participating in Prison Industries is 20 percent, Miller said. The recidivism rate for the regular prison population is about 40 percent.

Most items are marketed and sold in the state to governmental or educational agencies to avoid competition with private industry, Miller said.

Mike Brinkley, executive director of the Mississippi State Fair Commission, said his office has purchased many Prison Industries products.

"They are very good," Brinkley said of products such as horse stalls, cow panels and ash trays. "They have gotten even better in the last year. ... We plan to buy more of their products."

Outside the state, items will be sold to anyone, Miller said.

"We are one of the best-kept secrets for the state of Mississippi," Sanders said. "Prisoners aren't just sitting around, they are working."

07-04-2003, 05:50 PM
This sounds almost too good to be true ... too bad more states weren't this forward thinking ...

07-04-2003, 05:52 PM
how come there aren't programs like this in ALL prisons? my ex made a rustic cabin/doll house while in prison, one for his daughters and one for the warden. they are priceless. Carlos was not the type to do crafts either. the warden paid Carlos $1,000 to make this house. if i can work this camara i'm gonna send a picture. that $1,000 covered him his whole term! we are still laughing.