#104 Prison Jobs 102 (retro)

March 19, 2010 at 4:00 am Leave a comment

Prison Jobs 102

I actually wanted to call this “Prison Jobs 101” but I am quite sure I have blogged on this before. Like I said, I have over 500 blogs that I did previously, but since I took them all off a month or so ago, I am kinda starting over. I did not erase my blogs from my computer, so I still have those, which is why I will share a “retro” blog every now and then.

Anyway, I urge you guys to email me or make a nice comment, it helps encourage me to write more. Also, I do have books, cards and certificates as well, so if you can support my writing that would be kinda cool too.

Before I get to the title, I really encourage you guys to check out a comment left by a reader under my blog, “Prison Release Anxiety” on blogspot. Most of you know that I have currently 7 prison blogs out there, one of those being blogspot. Today I got a very good comment by a reader with some very helpful information, and I really urge you guys to check it out when you can. Look for #17 on my blog, since I number my blogs on Blogspot. In fact, I will have to try to blog on that comment at another time, it deserves that kinda attention.

But today I want to talk to you guys about a subject requested by a reader in Canada…

(you know, I get some really good readers out of Canada, I had a reader from Canada that supported my books and was really very cool…is everybody in Canada like that?)

Anyway, the reader asked me if I could blog a bit about prison jobs, or being broke in prison…I can probably combine both, but there actually is more than can be said if I treated them separately, so I will concentrate on prison jobs.

If you have been following my blogs over the last couple of years or all my writings over the past 5 years, you know I have had several prison jobs. If you have purchased my “Grades of Honor” books, you know I do talk about this issue. But if you are new to these blogs, I’ll start from the beginning.

We all know that every state operates their prison system a little different than the next. Even in the same state, prisons can be different in how the deal with jobs. So whatever I say is NOT etched in stone; it is based on what I have gone through. Having said that, the idea of prison jobs is a huge subject to cover.

Remember that prisons need to have stuff done, and is like a small town. Inmates need to eat, so somebody has to make the food. Dorms need to be cleaned, so somebody has to do the cleaning. The prison grounds need maintenance so somebody has to do that. Inmate clothing needs to be exchanged and cleaned, someone has to do that. Almost every job in prison is done by an inmate.

Mind you, not ALL, but most.

There are different kinds of “jobs” in prison, ranging from “free assigned” jobs to “incentive wage” jobs and the “holy grail” jobs….uh… I kinda made those phrases up to describe the jobs, I’ll explain that as we go.

Let’s start at the bottom, with the “free assigned” jobs. These are the least desired, because they can be ASSIGNED to you and you work for FREE. Now I know that other prisons in other states may have this as a general rule for their inmates, but I am describing this from NC standards.

A “free assigned” job is one where an officer can draft you to do a job for nothing. You get nothing for it except the satisfaction of doing the job. We all had to go through that at least once, especially if you went through a processing prison. When I entered the NC prison system, the first stop was Craven Correctional, in Vanceboro, NC. On that camp, since it was a temporary stop for inmates, we all had to work.

By work I mean we were all janitors. In a dorm of about 60+ guys, and on a camp that was pretty dusty, we all took turns sweeping, mopping, cleaning the bathrooms, dusting and cleaning windows. Those of you who read “Grades of Honor”, the first book, know exactly what I am talking about….

(Oh by the way, I do have 3 different books of “Grades of Honor” if interested)

For the work we did, there was no reward…we worked for free. But sometimes that isn’t as bad as it may sound…sometimes working takes your mind off your current problems, so maybe there was a bit of therapy involved.

On other camps you can be assigned or drafted for jobs too. For example, if an officer sees some trash on the grounds, he can go get a couple of inmates to clean it up. I remember being “recruited” to pick up cigarette butts and roll up ends on the yard one night. I didn’t complain because one, to be out at night was very rare for an inmate, and two, the officer would usually let us go to canteen after we finish. That was a plus, if you had money.

Now the next tier of jobs in prison would be the “incentive wage” jobs. The are the jobs that can also be assigned, but you may get gain time for, as well as pay. Now, don’t get too excited about the “pay”, it ain’t minimum wage!

The first incentive wage job I got was at Pasquotank Correctional, as a janitor. I got gain time against my sentence and 60 cents a day.

That’s right, I said 60 CENTS A DAY.

I worked 5 days a week, so I got $3.00 a week. Incentive wage jobs do differ in the actual job, the amount of gain time earned and even the wages. Some jobs offer as little as 40 cents a day, some as high as $1 a day.

Now don’t laugh at these meager earnings, trust me, when you are broke, those couple of dollars might as well be a fortune. I had some lean times in a couple of those prisons, and just getting that incentive wage allowed me to buy a cold soda and a couple of snacks to help me out of a tough day.

Most jobs in prison are incentive wage jobs, and most are necessity jobs. Every dorm has to have a few janitors, those guys get incentive wage. Every prison has a chow hall, so they have to have a kitchen staff, which is almost ALL inmates. The weights on the yard, the basketballs and shuffleboard equipment is taken care of by recreational managers, which are inmates. Road squad crews, which go outside the prison are paid incentive wage. Librarians, Canteen Operators and Clothes house workers are all paid incentive wages as well.

These guys make anywhere from about 40 cents to $1 a day. I think there might be a job or two that might pay $1.50, but don’t quote me on that. Also, I am saying these things as of when I was last in, if it has changed, I had not known.

Like I said, I have been on both sides of the pay scale. I was a janitor for 40 cents a day, which I HATED, on one camp, and I was a GED assistant making $1 on another. I mean when you think about it, making $5 a week in prison is pretty sweet! Still, it does not compare to a guy with a half decent hustle…but that is another story.

Now the most desired jobs are those “holy grail” jobs, which of course include work release. I touched on this before when I was venting about some idiots on the NC forums of Prison Talk Online, when some lady tried to tell me that her son got work release because he had a resume…


But that is another story. Still, there is no denying that every inmate would love to be able to get one of those work release jobs. Why? Several reasons. One, in nearly every case, this type of job gets you OFF THE PRISON GROUNDS.

That is huge because after looking at the same guys, same prison, same walls and everything else, it is a great relief to be able to step out and see the rest of the world. The fringe benefits of work release means that you can work in the real world, and see normal people. One good example of that is right here in my town. The city employs a handful of “Honor Grade Inmates” which are basically minimum custody inmates who qualify for work release. Some of them work with other city workers to do small jobs around the city, maybe clean up the parks and things like that.

This is different from road squads because the road squad deals mainly with road side cleanup. I have done this before, and if in the right season, where it isn’t too hot, it isn’t so bad. But work release guys do more and get around town more.

The other big plus is the money. These guys are paid at LEAST the legal minimum wage. Compare $6.15 an hour to 60 cents a day. That is a HUGE difference. Personally, I think more prisons should try to incorporate work release to inmates in minimum custody to help them get some money before they are released. A guy who has no family or friends needs money, and if he can land a work release job for even a year or even 6 months, before his release, he would at least have a chance of getting back into the swing of real life. Prisons give NC inmates a $45 gate check, what the hell is that suppose to cover?

Anyway, I am getting off the subject.

These work release jobs can be anything that the community has to offer to inmates. The jobs have to be approved by the prison before they can fill it with an inmate. I knew guys that worked at local grocery stores, some that worked as a janitor at a school and other positions. I will admit, I was always jealous of those guys.

I mean, here I was, a college grad with a B.S. in Radio and Television, minored in Journalism, awards in acting, some in writing (in college) and all this stuff, yet I was earning pennies a day, literally, while another guy was making hundreds and hundreds of dollars a month. He might as well be Bill Gates!

I really wish prisons would do more to help inmates earn some REAL money before they are released from prison. Let’s face it, $45 helps nobody. If you go down to Ruby Tuesdays to celebrate your release, you would have blown a good portion of it right there.

Now, there ARE other types of jobs in the “holy grail” category, not just work release, but I just wanted to kinda point out a few to you. I wanted to try to give you some impression of what kinda jobs are available to inmates in prison. And let me support this with this idea as well… the number of employees at each prison is very different.

Some prisons may not have work release, some may have many slots available. Some prisons might employ 100 guys for the kitchen, yet another might have 10. Some prisons might have one janitor per dorm, another might have 5. One camp might have 3 canteen operators, another might have only one.

This is a very multi-dimensional discussion, because every prison is different, and the jobs available may be different too, including the number of jobs available. In the time I was in prison, I was first a “free assigned” janitor, then I was a janitor for 60 cents a day, then a GED assistant for $1 a day, then a janitor for 40 cents a day.

From there I worked in the kitchen as a pot washer for 60 cents a day, then I was a dining hall attendant for 60 cents a day, then a cook for $1 a day. I went on road squad for I think it was 80 cents a day. So there are a wide variety of jobs an inmate can do, but if I had a choice, and like almost every other inmate, I would have loved to have work release. If I had a few hundred dollars in my pocket when I got out, I think things might have been much more different as far as getting off on the right foot.

So that gives you an idea of how prison jobs work, in some fashion. Many guys like the work because it beats staring at a wall all day, and it takes their mind off the sentence. If you can earn a few dollars, that is also a plus, especially since most guys don’t get money coming in every month…I know I didn’t so sometimes that $3 was like winning a lottery.

Anyway, feel free to email me or make a comment, and ask me about my projects. I am always looking for support since I have yet to hear from Bill Gates or Oprah about their financial support of my writings.

(that was a joke, however small)


Entry filed under: girlfriends with boyfriends in prison, God and prison, inmates, jail, LostVault, mothers with sons in prison, prison, prison abuse, prison blogs, prison books, prison cards, prison food, prison jobs, prison mail, prison pen pals, prison support sites, Prison Talk Online, Prisonbid, rehabilitation, son in prison.

#103 Preparing for him after prison (retro) #105 Prison Fear pt3 Inside out (retro)

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