Additional Resources:

Program Profile: Prison Industry Enhancement Certificate Program (PIECP)

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on March 28, 2016

Program Summary

The program engages state prison inmates in private sector jobs (which pay minimum wage or higher), in an effort to increase post-release employment and reduce recidivism. The program is rated Promising. Compared with inmates who worked in traditional prison industries and participated in other activities such as education and drug treatment, program participants had significantly higher post-release employment and lower recidivism rates.

Program Description

Program Goals
The Prison Industry Enhancement Certificate Program (PIECP) provides state prison inmates with private sector jobs to reduce post-release recidivism, improve post-release employability, and improve potential job quality and wages.

Target Population
The targeted population includes minimum- and medium-security prisoners without medical problems who have a reasonably low risk for rule violations. Only state (and not federal) inmates are eligible for participation in PIECP. Participation in the program is voluntary. Eligibility criteria vary by state or correctional institution, but may include 1) a minimum amount of time without any disciplinary reports, 2) minimum- and medium-security levels, 3) enrollment in or completion of  high school or a GED program, 4) a minimum amount of time remaining on a prison sentence (e.g., 6 months), and 5) no major medical problems that would prohibit work.

Program Components
In the PIECP, inmates produce goods or provide services at minimum wage (or higher) for private sector companies. The work may range from labor-intensive routine tasks (i.e., assembly line) to highly skilled craftsmanship (i.e., sheet metal welding). The program provides inmates with both “soft” skills (i.e., going to work regularly, getting to work on time, having a positive work attitude) and “hard” skills (i.e., learning a trade or skill such as welding), which increase their chances of finding employment upon their release.

There are three models for operation of a PIECP program: 1) employer, 2) manpower, and 3) customer. In the employer model, private sector firms manage the PIECP inmate population and produce goods for sale in open markets. In the manpower model, inmates are supervised by the private company, but are considered to be employed by the Department of Correction. Under the employer and manpower models, the inmates have regular contact with and are supervised by free world workers, providing them with an employment (rather than correctional) environment during the day. Under the customer model, Departments of Correction operate the PIECP production facilities, manage the workers, and deliver the goods to private firms for sale in open markets.

The inmates participate in PIECP during their incarceration, which typically lasts 1 to 5 years.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Smith and colleagues (2006) found that significantly fewer Prison Industry Enhancement Certificate Program (PIECP) participants were re-arrested during the follow-up period, compared with the traditional industries (TI) and other than work (OTW) groups combined (41 percent versus 47 percent, respectively). Additionally, PIECP participants stayed arrest-free longer than the TI and OTW groups.
Significantly more PIECP group participants obtained employment within the first quarter after release than the TI and OTW groups combined (55 percent versus 40 percent, respectively). Additionally, PIECP participants obtained employment significantly faster than the TI and OTW groups.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Smith and colleagues (2006) used a quasi-experimental design to compare outcomes of Prison Industry Enhancement Certificate Program (PIECP) participants with two matched comparison groups of inmates who participated in traditional prison industries (TI) and other than work (OTW) activities, such as education and drug treatment. The researchers used a cluster-sampling strategy to select five states with large numbers of PIECP workers for participation in the study. The selection process involved ranking U.S. geographic regions, rural and urban populations, gender representation, and PIECP models for inclusion in the study. A total of 6,464 inmates were included in the study.
The treatment sample included all inmates released from 46 prisons in the five selected states who worked in PIECP (n=2,333) and were released between January 1, 1996 and June 30, 2001, which allowed for at least a 2-year follow up and a maximum of 7.5 years. The comparison sample (n=4,131) included inmates who received TI and OTW and were matched to PIECP participants on six criteria (race, gender, crime type, age, time served, and number of disciplinary reports). The inmates in the sample were 58 percent white, 32 percent black, 8 percent Hispanic, and 2 percent other races. On average at intake, the sample was 32 years of age, ranging from 18 to over 51 years. Approximately 80 percent of the sample was male and length of incarceration ranged from less than 1 year to 7 years.
The inmates in the treatment group were given employment in private sector jobs. The individuals in the comparison groups were either given jobs in TI (similar to PIECP in terms of work, except that the inmates were not paid a prevailing wage and the production was not sold in open markets) or were involved in other prison activities, in addition to industry work (education or drug treatment).
Measures of employment and recidivism were gathered from PIECP automated records and corrections data. Survival analyses were used to compare the treatment and comparison groups on post-release employment and recidivism. 
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There is no cost information available for this program.
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Implementation Information

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More information about the Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program can be found on the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) Web site:
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Smith, Cindy J., Jennifer Bechtel, Angie Patrick, Richard R. Smith, and Laura Wilson-Gentry. 2006. Correctional Industries Preparing Inmates for Re-entry: Recidivism & Post-release Employment. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Auerbach, Barbara. 2011. The Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program: A Program History. Accessed March 2, 2016.

Cox, Robynn. 2010. “The Effect of the Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program on Labor Market Outcomes of Prison Releases.” Durham, N.C.: Duke University.

Gallagher, Daniel J., and Mary Edwards. 1997. “Prison Industries and the Private Sector.” Atlantic Economic Journal 25(1):91–8.

Hopper, Jeffrey D. 2013. “Benefits of Inmate Employment Programs: Evidence From The Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program.” Journal of Business & Economics Research, 11(5):213–21.

National Correctional Industries Association. “Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP). Accessed March 2, 2016.
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Related Practices

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Following are practices that are related to this program:

Adult Reentry Programs
This practice involves correctional programs that focus on the transition of individuals from prison into the community. Reentry programs involve treatment or services that have been initiated while the individual is in custody and a follow-up component after the individual is released. The practice is rated Promising for reducing recidivism.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
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Program Snapshot

Age: 18 - 51

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Black, Hispanic, White, Other

Setting (Delivery): Correctional

Program Type: Vocational/Job Training, Violence Prevention

Targeted Population: Prisoners

Current Program Status: Active

Listed by Other Directories: Campbell Collaboration

Training and TA Provider:
Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP)
Bureau of Justice Assistance
Washington DC