Prison Industry Enhancement Certificate Program (PIECP)
Evaluations & Outcomes
The Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP), which began in 1979, is a prison industries program that allows prison and jail inmates to work in private sector jobs and earn locally-prevailing market wages with deductions for taxes, room and board, victims’ compensation, and family support. As of the end of 2007, the program was operational in 38 state prison systems and six local jurisdictions, and 5,401 inmates were employed in the program. Eligibility requirements for PIECP vary from place to place; the only required stipulation is that participants must certify that they have volunteered for the program. Generally, however, participants must have been free of disciplinary reports for six months prior to participation in the program, be classified at the minimum or medium security level, have completed high school or their GED or be currently enrolled in a high school or GED program, have at least six months remaining on their sentence, and have no medical issues that would prevent them from working.
Requirements to work in a particular industry vary as well but tend to stipulate that inmates apply and be a good match for that industry in terms of skill and interest; work experience is preferred, but it is not required. PIECP programs can be held either in correctional facilities or separate manufacturing facilities.
Recommendations for Practice
- Cox (2009) found that prisoners participating in the Prison Industry Certificate Enhancement Program (PIECP) experienced a delay in recidivism compared to traditional industry (TI) participants. Additionally, when compared to TI participants, PIECP participants earned more and experienced a delay in the time until job loss.
- The primarily difference between TI and PIECP involved the wages earned–while PIECP participants earned a working wage, TI participants earned only minimal or no wages. The type of work also varied somewhat, with some TI participants engaged in institutional work (such as laundry work), while others performed the same types of jobs as PIECP participants. Cox’s findings suggest that wages earned and the type of work may play a role in the effectiveness of engaging inmates in industrial work.
- In an analysis of recidivism among high-risk male prisoners, Saylor & Gaes (1985-1999) found that the program effect, over an eight- to twelve-year follow-up period, was generally more beneficial for minorities than for White prisoners.
Suggestions for Future Research
- Although the body of research on prisoner industries is robust (five studies meeting the high level of rigor have been conducted), these studies have shown conflicting results, suggesting that further research may be needed to identify the contexts and populations with which the intervention is effective or ineffective.