The Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP) exempts certified federal, state, local, and tribal departments of corrections from normal restrictions on the sale of offender-made goods in interstate commerce. In addition, the program lifts restrictions on these certified corrections departments, permitting them to sell offender-made goods to the Federal Government in amounts exceeding the $10,000 maximum normally imposed on such transactions.
PIECP was created by Congress in 1979 to encourage states and units of local government to establish employment opportunities for prisoners that approximate private-sector work opportunities. Congress expanded PIECP in 2012 to allow federal agency participation. The program is designed to place offenders in a realistic work environment, pay them the prevailing local wage for similar work, and enable them to acquire marketable skills to increase their potential for successful rehabilitation and meaningful employment on release.
A total of 50 jurisdictions may be certified under PIECP. To become certified, each program must demonstrate to the Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), U.S. Department of Justice, that it meets statutory and guideline requirements as listed under the Mandatory Criteria for Program Participation.
PIECP has two primary objectives:
Provide offenders with marketable job skills, reduce prison idleness, and improve the prospects for post-release employment and ultimately successful offender reentry.
Generate products that enable offenders to make a contribution to society, help offset the cost of their incarceration, compensate crime victims, and support their families.
PIECP was first authorized under the Justice System Improvement Act of 1979 (Public Law 96-157, Sec. 827) and later expanded under the Justice Assistance Act of 1984 (Public Law 98-473, Sec. 819). The Crime Control Act of 1990 (Public Law 101-647) authorizes continuation of the program indefinitely.
PIECP allows private industry to establish joint ventures with federal, state, local and tribal correctional agencies to produce goods using prison labor. The program benefits:
Corrections Administrators – The program is not only a cost-effective way to offer job skills training to a portion of the offender population but also enhances institutional safety by improving offender behavior during incarceration.
Crime Victims – The program provides a means of partial repayment to crime victims.
Families – The program allows deductions from offender wages for family support.
Offenders – Through voluntary participation in the program, offenders are offered the opportunity to work, meet financial obligations, increase job skills, and increase the likelihood of meaningful employment upon release from incarceration.
Private Sector Companies – The program provides a stable and readily available workforce that does not displace employed workers in the community. In addition, many correctional agencies provide manufacturing space to private-sector companies involved in the program.
The Public – Through offender contributions to room and board, family support, victim compensation, and taxes, the program provides a way to reduce the escalating cost of incarceration.
Mandatory Criteria for Program Participation
Corrections departments that apply to participate in PIECP must meet all eight of the following criteria:
Legislative authority to pay wages at a rate not less than that paid for similar work in the same locality’s private sector.
Written assurances that the program will not result in the displacement of workers employed in the community before program implementation.
Authority to provide worker benefits, including workers’ compensation or its equivalent.
Authority to involve the private sector in the production and sale of prisoner-made goods.
Written assurances that offender participation is voluntary.
Legislative or administrative authority to collect and provide financial contributions of not less than 5 percent and not more than 20 percent of gross wages to crime victim compensation/assistance programs.
Written proof of consultation with organized labor and local private industry before program startup.
Compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act and related federal environmental review requirements.
Allowable Wage Deductions
Corrections departments may take a series of deductions from wages earned by offenders. Permissible deductions are limited to room and board, taxes (such as federal, state, FICA), family support, and crime victim compensation/assistance. Deductions must not total more than 80 percent of gross wages.
Program Certification Process
Interested corrections departments may request a PIECP Certification Application from BJA or the National Correctional Industries Association. Applicants must provide written proof that they meet all mandatory program criteria (including copies of legislation and/or administrative rulings, as appropriate). After reviewing an application, BJA will formally notify the jurisdiction that it has been certified to participate in the program. Certified jurisdictions must agree to enforce program requirements. Certification may be terminated if a jurisdiction is found to be out of compliance with any of the mandatory program criteria or if the certification is unused for 6 months or longer.
All departments of correction and juvenile justice agencies authorized by law to administer Correctional Industry programs are eligible to apply for PIECP certification.
For Further Information
For inquiries from governmental agencies, media and the general public:
Bureau of Justice Assistance
810 Seventh Street NW
Washington, DC 20531
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