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LEGISLATIVE 

RESEARCH COMMISSION 


REPORT 

TO THE 

1977 

GENERAL ASSEMBLY of NORTH CAROLINA 



THE USE OF 

INMATE LABOR 

IN 

DEPARTMENT of CORRECTION 
CONSTRUCTION 

RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA 



A LIMITED NUMBER OF COPIES OP THIS REPORT ARE AVAILABLE 
FOR DISTRIBUTION THROUGH THE LEGISLATIVE LIBRARY: 


ROOM 2126, 2226 
STATE LEGISLATIVE BLDG. 
RALEIGH, N. C. 27611 
PHONE: (919) 735-7778 


STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA 
LEGISLATIVE RESEARCH COMMISSION 

STATE LEGISLATIVE BUILDING 

RALEIGH 27611 



January 12, 197'7 

TO THE MEMBERS OE THE 1977 GENERAL ASSEMBLY: 


Transmitted herewith is the report prepared by the 
Committee on the Use of Inmate Labor in Department of 
Correction Construction of the Legislative Research 
Commission. The study was conducted pursuant to Chapter 
851 of the 19^5 Session Laws and this report is submitted 
to the members of the General Assembly for their consideration. 


Respectfully submitted, 



Jame!^ G-.-'-Gre-en /T^^ohn T. Henley 7 

Co-Chairmen 


LEGISLATIVE RESEARCH COMMISSION 



TABLE OP CONTENTS 


Page 

LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL i 

PREFACE V 

COMMITTEE PROCEEDINGS 1 

FINDINGS 3 

RECOMMENDATIONS 10 

APPENDICES 

A. Membership Lists 

B. Excerpt from Chapter 851 , S.L. 1975 

C. Preliminary Questions 


D. G. S. 148-53.1 (f) 



PREFACE 


The Legislative Research Commission, authorized by Article 
6B of Chapter 120 of the General Statutes, is a general-purpose 
study group. The Commission is co-chaired by the Speaker of the 
House and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and has five 
additional members appointed from each house of the General 
Assembly. Among the Commission's duties is that of making or 
causing to be made, upon the direction of the General Assembly, 
"such studies c^f and investigations into governmental . agencies 
and institutions and matters of public policy as will aid the 
General Assembly in performing its duties in the most efficient 
and effective manner" (G.S. 120-30. 17(1),) • 

At the direction of the 1975 General Assembly, the Legisla- 
tive Research Commission has undertaken studies of twenty-nine 
matters. These studies were divided into ten groups according 
to related subject matter. The Co-Chairmen of the Legislative 
Research Commission, under the authority of General Statutes 
120-50. 10(b) and (c), appointed committees to conduct the studies, 
the committees consisting of members of the General Assembly 
and of the public. Each member of the Legislatiye Research 
Commission was given responsibility for one group of studies, and 
served as chairman of the committees appointed within his area 
of responsibility. Co-Chairmen, one from each house of the 
General Assembly, were designated on each committee. 


-V- 


The study of the Use of Inmate Labor in Department of Correction 
Construction is one of the Department of Correction Mafctcsrs assigned 
to Senator Luther Britt. A list of the members of the 1 ative 

Research Commission and a list of the members of the Committee 
assigned this study may be found in Appendix A. 

The Legislative Research Commission was directed by House Bill 
296 (1975 S.L. , c. 851 ) to study a variety of subjects. Section 
11.4 of that act contains the charge to the Commission with respect 
to its study of the Use of Inmate Labor in Department of Correction 
Construction. A copy of section 11.4 may be found in Appendix B. 


COMMITTEE PROCEEDINGS 


Senator Glenn Jernigan and Representative Edward Holmes, 
Co-Chairmen of the Legislative Research Commission Committee 
on the Use of Inmate Labor in Department of Correction Construc- 
tion (hereinafter referred to as "the Committee") met with the 
Committee staff prior to the first full meeting to discuss their 
views on the broad parameters of the subject to be studied by 
the Committee. At that time, and during early deliberations 
with the full Committee, it was resolved to follow several 
avenues of inqui 2 ?y. The primary questions to be answered were: 
(1) What master plan did the Department of Correction have for 
future construction? (2) Did the prison population contain 
persons of the necessary skills to perform this construction? 

(3) Could these construction projects be used as a means of 
training inmates in skills that would enable them to find 
employment upon their release? (4) Would the use of inmate 
labor have a harmful impact on the construction industry in 
North Carolina? and (5) How would the use of inmate labor 
affect the timetable currently established for construction. 

At the direction of the Co-Chairmen a list of questions was 
sent to officials of the Department of Correction and they were 
asked to be prepared to respond to these questions at the first 
meeting. Appendix C contains a copy of the list of questions. 

Mr. Donald Torppa, Deputy Secretary of the Department of 
Correction, and Mr. W. L. Kautzky, Assistant Director of 
Prisons, representing the Department of Correction, provided 


the data requested at various times by the Committee and 
responded to questions. 

As a number of the questions to be resolved concerned 
expertise outside the realm of the Department of Correction, 
representatives of the North Carolina Chapter of the American 
Institute of Architects and the Carolinias Branch of the 
Associated General Contractors were asked to assist the Com- 
mittee. Mr. Dale Blosser appeared for the North Carolina 
Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and Mr. Henry 
Pierce for the Associated General Contractors. With the 
assistance of these gentlemen, the Committee explored the im- 
pact of inmate labor upon the construction industry; the 
feasibility of using construction projects as a training 
mechanism; the effect of using inmate labor on the cost of 
construction; and the design problems which might be presented 
by the use of a prisoner work force. 

After soliciting the input of these various sources, the 
Committee met to discuss the information collected and to 
formulate findings and recommendations. 


- 2 - 


FINDINGS 


1 . Finding and utilizing; the necessary skills for ma.jor 
construction projects among; the prison population would be 
extremely difficult, if not impossible . 

Although, persons exist within the prison population who 
possess skills and training in carpentry, masonry, etc., 
utilizing all the personnel necessary for a single major con- 
struction project presents problems in logistics too great to 
resolve. Any given project would take a significant period of 
time to complete and delays caused hy the weather or other 
uncontrollable factors may greatly increase that time period. 

The make-up of the prison population changes continuously. A 
carpenter/prisoner may complete his sentence or receive a parole 
before a construction project has been finished, thus removing 
him abrouptly from the work force. As utilizing maximum custody 
prisoners for construction projects seems too hazardous to be 
advisable, the pool of possible laborers is reduced. It is 
further reduced by the need to exclude persons whose sentences 
will expire before the project is completed. Although unskilled 
laborers may be replaced during a project, there may not be a 
sufficient number of skilled workers at any given time to complete 
the project on or near schedule. 

2. Federal restrictions preclude the use of inmate labor 
on projects financed in whole or in part, with federal funds . 

A large proportion of the construction accomplished within 
the Department of Correction receives some federal funding. This 


- 3 - 


is especially true of major projects. A representative of the 
Department of Correction testified that one restriction upon the 
use of these federal funds is that no inmate labor he used on the 
construction work. In some instances the Department has been 
able to distribute available funds in such a manner as to make a 
specific project financed totally by non-federal sources. When 
that can be done, inmates could be used in construction. On most 
major projects, however, the Department is precluded from utilizing 
an inmate labor force. 

3. Major construction projects do not provide a good 
mechanism for training prisoners in construction skills . 

Although a great deal of labor is involved in the construction 
of even a single large building, only a small portion of that total 
is needed in each skilled area. There would be insufficient vrork 
for a carpenter, for example, to train a prisoner in that trade. 
Even if there were a great deal of carpentry work, there would 
probably not be much diversity. A trained carpenter must be 
familiar with various methods of hanging a door or constructing a 
window frame. A single project will not provide an opportunity for 
training in a variety of styles. 

The amount of supervision needed for inmate laborers on a 
major project would be very great and, therefore, costly. Instruc- 
tors would be needed for training and guards for security. The 
supervision would have to be very close to insure the safety of 
the completed structure. 

According to testimony received by the Committee, training 
in the construction field should contain a large component of 


classroom instruction. The instruction could be provided, but 
probably at the expense of other vocational programs. In fact, 
the impact on existing programs of using inmate labor for con- 
stmction should not be underestimated. If large numbers of 
workers are required for construction work, it will impair their 
availability for work release, study release, or other vocational 
training. Certainly an inmate who has qualified for work release 
should not be denied the privilege because his skills are needed 
for construction work. But if the Department is given the res- 
ponsibility of putting up the buildings with an inmate work force, 
there will be a reluctance to divert skilled workers to other 
programs . 

The Committee found that work-release was a significant program 
and considered the probable negative impact of inmate construction 
on the work-release program important. In receiving testimony about 
work-release, however, the Committee was informed that inmates em- 
ployed in the work-release program were being required to pay the 
State only $3*^5 per day for their keep. G.S. 148-53*1 (f) (a copy 
of which may be found in Appendix D) provides that the Department 
of Correction should deduct from a prisoner's pay "an amount 
determined to be the cost of the prisoner's keep." Among other 
authorized deductions is one "to pay travel and other expenses of 
the prisoner made necessary by his employment." Testimony received 
by the Committee was to the effect that a standard fee of $.70 per 
day was deducted regardless of the fact that the transportation 
expenses of a given inmate might be quite high. Other testimony 


J 


indicated that the average annual cost of maintaining a prisoner 
was over |4,000, which, on a daily basis, far exceeds $3.45. The 
Conunittee finds that these small fixed deductions do not fulfill 
the clear direction of the Statute. 

4. GZhe use of inmate labor would have a harmful impact on the 
construction industry in North Carolina . 

All persons testifying before the Committee agreed that it 
would be infeasible to use private contractors and an inmate work 
force. Therefore, if all construction were to be accomplished by 
inmates, the private construction industry would play no part in 
the work at all . 

The Committee found that the use of inmate labor for all con- 
struction within the Department of Correction would obviously de- 
prive the private sector of the profit to be made on these projects. 
The extent of this impact would probably not be so significant as to 
warrant abandonment of the concept if all other factors indicated 
that the approach would be beneficial. With a variety of reasons 
militating against the concept, however, the Committee felt that this 
loss to the private sector should also be given consideration. 

5 . Utilization of inmate labor may. effect the time necessary to 
complete construction projects and the cost savings are not clearly 
documented . 

The construction industry is vulnerable to a number of factors 
which can delay completion of any given project. The use of inmate 
labor would add to this vulnerability. The Committee feels that 
the caliber of personnel utilized by a private company would 


- 6 - 



probably be much higher than that of the prison population, in 
terms of both training and experience. A more serious problem 
is more likely to be encountered in a lower level of motivation 
among inmates. Although any system of inmate labor would neces- 
sarily require incentives, the Committee has concluded that 
regardless of what incentive system were adopted, it wonij.^ te 
difficult to motivate an inmate work force to a level approaching 
that of the private sector. 

Although officials of the Department of Correction have 
testified that savings may be realized by using inmate labor, this 
applies primarily to simple gobs. Large complex progects are be- 
yond the engineering capability of Department staff. To a large 
extent, the savings realized through use of an inexpensive work 
force would be offset by the fees of the consultants who would 
have to be hired for designing, and the artisans hired to do the 
work which cannot be accomplished by inmates. On simple progects, 
small buildings, or additions to existing ones, the capability 
exists within the Department to plan and carry out all phases of 
the work. This "in-house" capability is what results in much of 
the cost savings. If the Department were to be given responsibility 
for magor progects, these savings would probably be dissipated, 

6. Inmate. labor can- be effectively used in the construction 
of- small, simple progects and in maintenance and renovation work . 

The Committee finds, that many of the problems associated with 
the use of inmate labor for mag’or construction progects, such as 


- 7 - 



doimitories , are not present with, small, simple (johs. Small 
buildings for storage or other uses require far less work of the 
more skilled construction workers. The same is true of additions 
to existing buildings. Laborers can be trained in one or two 
simple procedures which can be repeated for the entire project. 

Small jobs normally require the use of fewer pieces of expensive 
equipment* Becuase the job is much simpler, it is easier to 
provide for minimum safety standards in the construction. Although 
inmates will not receive true vocational training while working 
only on minor projects, the Committee feels that other benefits 
may still be realized. Inmates so employed would productively 
occupy their time. The Committee feels that prevention of idleness 
among inmates is a primary goal of programs such as that under 
conside 3 ?ation here . 

In addition to actual construction, the Committee feels that 
inmates could be usefully employed in related work, such as 
building maintenance and renovation, especially painting. The 
Committee has found that out of a prison population of approximately 
13,500 inmates, a total of only 350 are employed in construction 
and maintenance combined. The Committee feels that this number 
could be greatly increased so as to reduce idleness and to improve 
the condition of our prisons. 

7. Current Department of Correction plans call for the use 
of some inmate labor in construction . 

Although testimony received by the Committee indicates that 
it would be infeasible to rely solely on inmate labor for construction 


- 8 - 



within the Department, the Committee does not feel that the 
concept should be completely abandoned. Officials for the 
Department have indicated that it will not be. Inmates will 
be used in some construction, thus allowing the success or failure 
of the program on a limited basis to be evaluated before a full- 
scale committment to the approach is adopted. 


- 9 - 


EECOMENDATIONS 


1 . The Department of Correction should utilize inmate labor 
in construction of small, simple projects and for maintenance and 
renovation * 

This recommendation is in line with current policy within the 
Department of Correction. Although inmates cannot receive training 
in the more highly skilled construction trades by working on these 
minor projects, it offers an additional method of occupying other- 
wise idle inmates in productive activity. Further, because the 
Department of Correction can handle all aspects of these small 
projects without contracting for any outside assistance, these 
proj'ects can be realized at less cost than through use of the 
private sector. An additional advantage of using inmate labor is 
that the Department can schedule construction as the need appears 
without being affected by the availability of private contractors. 

Although the Department currently employs inmates in both 
construction and maintenance work, the Committee feels that these 
work programs should be expainded. Approximately 100 inmates are 
currently employed in construction and 250 in maintenance and re- 
novation out of a prison population of 15,500 inmates. The Com- 
mittee recommends that the Department employ many more prisoners 
on these tasks which can usefully occupy the prisoners' time and 
create a more pleasant living environment for them. Painting would 
seem an especially appropriate task for this work force. 


10 - 


2. The Department of Correction should not be Riven the 
responsibility of accomplishinp; ma.jor construction projects 
through the use of inmate labor . 

Most of the testimony received by the Committee pointed out 
the problems that would probably be encountered if the Department 
were required to undertake major construction projects using in- 
mate labor. A primary difficulty would be encountered in the 
effect on other programs. Construction would never be completed 
if workers were allowed to leave their construction jobs to en- 
gage in other programs. Yet it would be ixnfair to deny an inmate 
access to a program to which he would otherwise be entitled, like 
work release, merely because he is needed for construction work. 
Conflicts such as this would be inherent in the system unless the 
entire framework of inmate programs were altered. 

Another difficulty in using an inmate work force for major 
projects concerns precautions for the safety of the building. An 
inexperienced work force would require a high degree of super- 
vision to guarantee that minimum safety standards were met. The 
need for security precautions increases the number of persons who 
would have to be employed in a supervisory role. These require- 
ments would, in turn, increase the cost of the project. Other 
anticipated problems, such as lack of motivation of the workers 
and the unavailability of skilled craftsmen, also indicate that 
it would be unwise for the Department of Correction to rely on 
inmate labor for major construction projects. 


- 11 


5. The General Assembly should re-evaluate the method by 
which inmates participating: in the work release program reimburse 
the State for the cost of their keep . 

G. S. 148-,35«'1 (f ) (see Appendix D) authorizes the Department 
to deduct "an amount determined to be the cost of a prisoner's 
keep." The Department currently charges per day, plus S*?0 

for transportation when it is provided by the Department. The 
Committee has received testimony that the average daily cost of 
maintaining a prisoner in the North Carolina system is over $10.00 
per day. The Committee has also been informed that some participants 
in the work release program earn a large salary. 

The Committee recommends that the General Assembly investigate 
this policy and establish a graduated formula for reimbursement 
based on the inmate's earnings. This would enable the State to 
recover the full cost of a prisoner's maintenance from those with 
good salaries while not over-burdening inmates with low salaries. 

The Committee further recommends that the full actual cost of a 
prisoner's transportation be deducted when provided by the 
Department , 


12 





lEGISLATIVE EESEAECH COKWISSXON I-KM.BET^S 


1975-76 



Name 

Business Address 

Phone 

Gpcaker Ja.Txes 0, Green 
Co-Chairman 

Box 185 

Clarkton, N. 0. 28A55 

(919) 647-4191 

Sen. 

Co- 

John T. Henley 
-Chairman 

200 S. Main Street 
Hope lii.ljs, N. C. 28518 

(919) 424-0261 

Sen. 

Boh L. Barker 

P. 0. Box 50569 
Raleiedi, N. C. 27612 

(919) 782-1514 

Sen. 

Luther J. Britt, Jr. 

P. 0. Box 1015 
Luinberton, N. C. 28558 

(919) 739-2531 

Sen. 

Cecil James Hill 

The Leca.1- Bldg. 
Brevard, N. C. 28712 

(704) 884-41] 5 

Sen. 

William D. Mills 

P. 0. Box 535 
Swansboro, N. C. 28584 

(919) 326-3745 

4 LCJJ c 

ri-l A 

U .JLOXjUi. XV • XIVXJ. .V _L w < 

•n r\ T>^-r n T T T 

J. . '-z . 

Marion, N. 0. 28752 

(704) 652-2455 

Rep, 

Liston B. Ramsey 

Marshall, IT. C. 28755 

(704) 6‘49-596] 

Rep. 

Hector E. Ray 

510 Green Street 

Pay ett evil 1 e , N . 0 . 28505 

f ^ J ^ 

Rep. 

J. Guy Revelle, Sr. ' 

Route 1, Box 125 
Conv;ay, N. 0. 27820 

(919) 537-4257 

Rep. 

Thomas B. Sawyer 

Suite 527-523 
Northvrestern Bldg. 
Greensboro, N. C. 27401 

(919) 275-4150 

Sen. 

VJillis P. Whi chard 

P. 0. Box 5843 
Dui'ham, N. C. 27702 

(919) 682-5654 


INMATE LABOR IN DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION CONSTRUCTION 


Name 


Business Address 


phone 


Sen. Glenn R. Jernigah 
Co-Chairman 

Rep < Edward S . Holmes 
Co-Chairman 

Sen. Marshall A. Rauch 


Sen. Carl D. Totherow 


Sen. J. V7ade Walsh 


Rep. Foyle Hightower, Jr . 


Rep. Dwight W. Quinn 


Rep. Charles E. Webb 


Box 1863 

Kayetteville, N.C, 28302 
Box 126 

Pittsboro, N.C. 27312 

Box 609 * 

Gastonia, N. C. 28052 

710 Coliseum Drive 
Winston-Salem, N, C. 27100 

811 Wild Cherry Pl.,N.W. 
Lenoir, N. C. 28645 

Route 2, Box 2 
Wadesboro, N.C. 28170 

Cannon Mills Co. 
Kannapolis, N. C. 28081 

Friendly Shopping Center 
Greensboro, N. C. 27408 


(919) 323-0415 
(919) 542-3232 
(704) 867-5000 
(919) 723-1031 
(704) *754-3297 
(704) 694-2515 
(704) 933 I 122 I 
(919) 294-0460 


Paul Stock — Committee -Staff 
Legislative Services office 
829-2578 


Senator Luther Britt — Legislative Research Commission Member 

Post Office Box 1015 
Lumberton, North Carolina 
739-2331 


APPENDIX B 



IXCEEPTED PROM CHAPTER 851 OP THE 1975 SESSION LAWS 


Sec. In its study of the feasibility of usiag 

ineate labor in Department of Correction construction the 
Legislative Research Commission shall look into either 
construction of new facilities or conversion or expansion of 
existing facilities being undertaken to the maximum extent 
feasible utilizing such inmate labor as may be available and fit 
for such work, contingent upon the availability of funds. If 
appropriate, the Commission report shall propose a comprehensive 
easter plan for future construction. If the Commission should 
determine that construction of campus type facilities using 
inmate labor would be feasible and beneficial, special attention 
should be given to the development of an appropriate system to 
provide inmate incentives which night include; 

(1) Review of the incentive wage provisions of G.S. 

|de-|8, 

(2) Review of good time credit as provided in G.S. |48- 


1 3 , 


(3) Special work release consideration for exemplary 
work performance, and 

(4) Development of any other rewards or incentives that 


say seen to be desirable 



APPENDIX C 



QUESTIONS REIATING TO INmTE lABOR 


1. What is the comprehensive master plan for construction 
of new facilities and renovation of existing facilities 
in the Department of Correction? 

2. Wliat priorities currently exist for construction of new 
facilities and renovation of existing facilities? 

3. Wiat funds are available for these purposes? 

4. 'What is the availability of skilled workers such as 
carpenters and brick masons among inmates? 

5. What training progrcims exist which could provide inmates 
trained in construction skills? 

6. What types of incentives could be used to encourage 
inmate participation in construction work or appropriate 
training? 

7. What would be the impact on the construction industry 
of using inmate labor for Department of Correction Con- 
struction? 

8. What type of format will be necessary for gaining required 
professional services(i.e. , general contractor, architect) 
and co-ordinating them with the use of inmate labor? 





G. S. 148-33.1 (f) 


(f) Prisoners employed in the free community under the provisions of this 
section shall surrender to the Department of Correction their earnings less 
standard payroll deductions required by law. After deducting from the 
earnings of each prisoner an amount determined to be the cost of the prisoner’s 
keep, the Department of Correction shall retain to his credit such amount as 
seems necessary to accumulate a reasonable sum to be paid to him when he is 
paroled or discharged from prison, and shall make such disbursements from 
any balance of his earnings as may be found necessary by the Department for 
the following purposes, considered in a priority order as stated: 

(1) To pay travel and other expenses of the prisoner made necessary by his 

employment; 

(2) To provide a reasonable allowance to the prisoner for his incidental 

personal expenses; 

(3) To make payments for the support of the prisoner’s dependents in 

accordance with an order of a court of competent jurisdiction, or in 
the absence of a court order, in accordance with a determination of 
dependency status and need made by the local department of social 
services in the county of North Carolina in which such dependents 
reside; 

(4) To comply with an order from any court of competent jurisdiction 
regarding the payment of an obligation of the prisoner in connection 
with any case before such court. 

In addition, the Department of Correction in its discretion may grant a request 
made in writing by the prisoners for a withdrawal for any other purpose. 

Any balance of his earnings remaining at the time the prisoner is released 
from prison shall be paid to him. The Social Services Commission is authorized 
to promulgate uniform rules and regulations governing the duties of county 
social services departments under this section.