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PIEPrison Industry Enhancement
Certification Program a win-win
By Pierce Miller, TBCJ Vice-Chairman

portrait of Pierce Miller
Pierce Miller
TBCJ Vice-Chairman
The Prison Industry Enhancement (PIE) Certification Program is a win-win enterprise for offenders, private companies, correctional industry, and taxpayers. A look at how it was developed and its status in the Texas criminal justice system today explains the reason for its growing popularity.

Congress created the PIE Certification Program in 1979 to encourage states and units of local government to establish employment opportunities for offenders through partnerships with private companies. These companies establish themselves on a unit, employ offenders who volunteer for the program, and pay those offenders wages for their work. From these wages deductions are taken to help pay for offenders’ room and board while in the program, for dependent support, restitution, and a contribution to the crime victims fund. About 45 percent of the wages, however, are retained by the offender for use upon release, or for sending home to relieve their family’s financial burden.

In Texas, the PIE Certification Program began with the opening of the Lockhart Work Program Facility in February 1993. At that time, the program was under the oversight of the TDCJ Pardons and Paroles Division, which had statutory authority to enter into a contractual agreement with a county for a 500-bed facility. In 1995, the Texas Legislature created the Private Sector Prison Industries Oversight Authority to approve, certify, and oversee the operations of the private sector industries programs in TDCJ, the Texas Youth Commission, and in county correctional facilities in compliance with the federal PIE Certification Program.

In an effort to expand, the Lockhart program and the TDCJ PIE Certification Program were moved under the oversight of the TDCJ Manufacturing and Logistics Division in 2000. Today, it has grown from a small program at one private facility to a program that now operates on four TDCJ units, as well as one private facility employing an average of 446 offenders on a monthly basis. Negotiations are underway for three additional programs (to be established by mid-2006) to be located at the Telford, Stiles, and Murray units. In addition to TDCJ, Haskell County recently initiated a PIE Certification Program, becoming the first local government in Texas to establish it within one of their facilities.

The benefits of the PIE Certification Program are numerous. From the rehabilitative perspective, the program places offenders in realistic work environments and enables them to obtain marketable job skills which will lead to meaningful employment upon their release. It also helps to build the offender’s self-esteem and sense of purpose, as many of them, some for the first time in their lives, can reach out monetarily and help their families. Statistics clearly support the program’s affect on recidivism. Of the 1,052 released offenders that have participated in the PIE Certification Program since its inception, 87.9 percent are currently employed and 76.1 percent have stayed out of prison. In comparison, the normal employment rate for current parolees is 62.2 percent.

From the monetary perspective, with the average daily cost of incarceration at $40.06 per day or $14,621.90 annually, offenders in the PIE Certification Program pay an amount equal to about 32 percent of their annual incarceration cost through their room and board deductions. In the last five years alone, the program has almost quadrupled the amount of money repaid to the state in this manner, an amount equivalent to $7 million in incarceration costs; savings that in turn preserve tax revenues for other priorities, such as public education, Medicaid, and public transportation. Other monetary benefits are evident when you consider, since its inception, participating offenders in Texas have been able to save $1.4 million for use upon release and have provided over $2.1 million to crime victim funds.

With the emphasis in our criminal justice system focusing on the importance of rehabilitative programs that impact an offender’s reentry into society, the PIE Certification Program will continue to be on the forefront, making an impact for years to come.

Texas PIE Programs as of January 2006

Location
Company
Product
Offenders
employed
Lockhart Work Facility Chatleff Controls Air Conditioner Parts 303 male offenders
Lockhart Work Facility OnShore Resources Computer Components 34 female and
male offenders
Coffield Unit Atrium Aluminum Windows 45 male offenders
Michael Unit Direct Trailer &
Equipment Co.
Renovated
Tractor-trailers
40 male offenders
Ellis Unit * Texas International Hardwood & Veneer, Inc. Veneer and Laminate 15 male offenders
Powledge Unit ** Unique Performance Rebuilt Old Cars 15 male offenders
Rolling Plains
Regional Jail and Detention Center in Haskell County ***
All Wire, Inc. Coated Wire Cables 20 out-of-state
offenders
*Equipment anticipated at unit in February 2006. **Established January 2006, will employ 60 offenders when fully operational. ***Non-TDCJ operated PIE Certification Program, established in January 2006. Will employ up to 60 offenders when fully operational


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