Train Prisoners for Green Careers?

Matt Kelley has an interesting and thought provoking post at on training prisoners in green jobs to help them re-enter society.

Corrections departments and facilities around the world offer many kinds of training for prisoners, including GEDs and college degrees, vocations like carpentry and plumbing and artistic talents like painting and video production. But prisons are too far behind the curve. Green jobs — including earth-friendly construction and solar panel manufacturing and installation among many, many other specialties — are certain to be booming in the years ahead, and prisons are a perfect place to teach these trades.

The comments are worth reading as well.

I wonder: how receptive is our society to training prisoners to take some of the best-paying jobs, especially given the current state of the economy? Ex-convicts should become productive members of society, but should that come at the expense displaced workers who haven’t committed a crime, or had to pay for their own training?


5 comments so far

  1. John Ettorre on

    An interesting idea, and a valuable new website for me. Thanks for bringing it to our attention, Mark.

  2. Mark Keating on


    Thanks for stopping by!

    This is a tip-of-the-iceberg question. The underlying question is really, “What do we do with people who have broken the law?” and unfortunately, not enough people are thinking about it. After much arm-twisting (in the nicest possible way, of course) one of the last things Stephanie Tubbs Jones was able to do before she passed was to get a transition program for parolees implemented – a welcome step. Unfortunately, it’s only one step. How can we expect anyone to truly master life-changing skillsets while simultaneously reintegrating from a “total environment”? And yet, that’s the reality.

    No wonder the recidivism rate is so high.

  3. John Ettorre on

    The good news is that there has been quite a lot of attention focused on “community re-entry” programs in this region. Here’s but a small sampling:

    And perhaps this very effective group can be nudged into focusing a little on this economic niche:

  4. Heidi V. on

    It’s a great idea since it would maybe help them be a more productive citizen.

    Since the recession, one would have to wonder how many people would break the law just to get retrained?

    • Mark Keating on


      That’s an interesting question. It is known that some people do break the law to go back into prison. Even so-called “model prisoners” sometimes have trouble readjusting to normal lifeand break the law deliberately, with the express purpose of getting locked up again where they can be in an environment that they understand and can cope with.

      Extending that scenario to include people who want to get job training but can’t afford it on their own might be a stretch. I would hope that someone with that level of creativity could find another (legal) method to obtain that training.

      Of course, nobody outside a think tank is even considering this, and in fact many “normal” job retraining programs for inmates have been severely cut back or eliminated altogether, so at this point it’s all moot.


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