What Are the Differences Between Prison Work and Work Release?

What Are the Differences Between Prison Work and Work Release?

Work is a critical part of your incarceration. In most cases, you will work jobs while you are in prison. You will also need to keep a job if you are on some kind of conditional release. Both prison work and work release are a form of working in custody, but there are key differences between the two.

What is prison work?

Nearly everyone in prison works. Unless you have a good medical reason not to, you will be assigned a job in prison. Most of these jobs relate to managing the facility. Others relate to services for other prisoners. These jobs are referred to as “prison work.” There are many common jobs in prison, including the following:

  • Commissary clerk
  • Food service
  • Painter
  • Transport driver
  • Plumber
  • Laundry service
  • Mailroom clerk
  • Groundskeeper

There are many other types of prison work that might be available in your facility.

What is work release?

Rather than working in prison, work release is a form of conditional release. People on work release can leave prison to work at a job. But they are still in custody during this time.

Sometimes that means they leave for the day and have to report back in the evening. Other times someone might leave for a five-day workweek and report back for a two-day weekend. Some people on work release live in a halfway house, which is completely outside of prison. Others might get the chance to live at home.

There are some key differences between prison work and work release.
Image courtesy of Bidvine via Pexels.

What are some key differences between work release and prison work?

There are more differences than similarities between work release and prison work. They are both jobs, and you are in custody in both situations. However, that’s where the similarities end. There are several important ways in which they are different.

  • Location. When you work at an in-prison job, you will be working at your facility. On the other hand, during work release, you will go where the job needs you. That might be at a job site, or you could even work remotely.
  • Pay. Prison work pays very little, if anything. Most prison jobs pay between $0.12 and $0.40 per hour. In contrast, jobs you can do on work release pay market rates. You will earn at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
  • Accessibility. Everyone has access to prison work. In fact, it is usually a requirement. But not everyone has access to work release. It is considered a privilege. The nature of your crime might make you ineligible for work release.

The Takeaway:

There are many differences between prison work and work release. Both of them are forms of work while you are in custody. However, that’s where the similarities stop. Prison work takes place inside your facility, but work-release jobs let you leave prison to do them. Work-release jobs pay market rates while prison work pays very, very little. Nearly everyone in prison works in prison jobs, but work release is a privilege that not everyone gets.

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