Jails rarely provide inmates with jobs, even low
paying manual work, partly due to the misconception that the inmate will only
be staying for a short while. In actuality, the relationship with the inmate is
often long-term because of prevailing recidivism rates.
Besides reducing the income to the state, restitution
programs, and the inmate, this also fails to put into practice the job training
and career encouragement programs funded by most jails. Without a work
transition program, jail operators also find it difficult to measure the
contribution made by such job training and career encouragement programs to the
ability of inmates to assimulate back into the workforce upon release.
Compounding this are the inmates, particularly the
younger ones, arriving with valuable computer-based skillsets that atrophy and
grow obsolete during their incarceration. Note that computer-based skill sets
are not the same as IT skill sets, but rather computer-based leverage points to
many other skill sets. An example is a legal aid worker who is proficient in
case management software and online legal research.
From a private-sector viewpoint, inmates represent a
net productivity loss for our state. Their work output is reduced or eliminated
while they continue to consume resources. Given their sizeable proportion of
our population, this represents a measurable decrease in our ability to compete
in world markets1. Whereas punishing crime
is just, we should look for alternatives that do not also punish the rest of
Given their commuting restrictions, we view jail
inmates as teleworkers with additional restrictions. Besides the lack of
physical access, which is not a problem for eTaskBoard, most inmates
would have to work with strict or complete internet access restrictions.
Although still an evaluation-stage project at this
time, the factors below indicate that eTaskBoard may become an effective
solution to the above problems:
- Labor statistics2 indicate that knowledge
workers are growing in demand as well as pay grade when compared to other labor
- eTaskBoard provides a variety of
implementations depending on the skill sets to be employed, the type of inmate
to be considered, the size and scope of tasks assigned, and the amount of
- Many of the government agencies likely to be
eTaskBoard employers already embrace the virtual workforce concept3 and have in place
policies and procedures promoting telework.
- Transitioning a released inmate to the private
sector can be a seamless process whereby the worker is reassigned to a
private-sector eTaskBoard implementation.
- Monitoring and managing a paroled inmate's
work-related activities is far simpler and more reliable with eTaskBoard
than a conventional job.
Restricting a worker's internet
access is by now a well-worn path because of its importance to worker
productivity and for the security concerns of the many knowledge workers at
classified defense facilities. Relevant access controls include restricting
browsers to specific IP addresses, and to operating the worker side of
eTaskBoard in a virtual private network (VPN). Because eTaskBoard
is designed with a non-inmate Coordinator between workers and employers,
eTaskBoard is well suited to the internet access restrictions of
In the private sector, a prospective eTaskBoard
Coordinator applies to Bizware Online Applications Inc much like a franchise
applicant. Evaluation criteria to consider Coordinators include an
understanding of the target eTaskBoard's business community, typically
including years of experience with the target workers and employers. Authorized
Coordinators pay an up-front $10,000 to cover the costs of opening an
eTaskBoard account within their specialty, as well as the design and
fielding of their marketing website and the hands-on support services needed to
become a practicing expert of the virtual workplace. Within 6 months,
Coordinators have P&L responsibility for their specialized
eTaskBoards with a few dozen workers and several dozen open employer
accounts. Once operational, eTaskBoards pay Bizware a monthly fee equal
to 4% of gross billings for maintenance and support.
Implementation within the the County's jail system may well be
different. Initial thoughts are that a small, proof-of-concept implementation
may be appropriate, with lessons-learned in a case study paper presented
through a professional society. A highly specialized eTaskBoard stands
the best chance of becoming a successful showcase, as shown by the examples
As a variation of the basic eTaskBoard
layout, the jail
interaction diagram at right shows the curtailed access of the inmate's
workstation. The non-inmate Coordinator manages all outside communication and
assigns tasks by passing them to the inmate's workstation. This can be done by
physically carrying a USB memory stick from the Coordinator's computer to the
inmate's workstation, a.k.a. the sneaker net. After the value and efficient
operation of an eTaskBoard is demonstrated, a more effective and more
secure direct line from the Coordinator's computer may be considered, with the
approval of the jail's Information Security Officer.
To increase inmate productivity, they can be given
access to the eTaskBoard modules as deemed worthwhile by jail
management. Whereas they may use a paper-based timecard system, for example,
they can transition to the computerized eTaskBoard timecard that
automatically allocates their time to the tasks being worked. Likewise, paper
printouts of eTaskBoard's Test Manager can eventually be replaced with
access to the computer-based tests. This can be a migration conditional to a
lack of security violations.
|eTaskBoard Implementation Examples for
Henry Hernandez is a public sector project
manager in Sacramento and is in need of a logo for the Powerpoint cover of a
new project announcement. Henry uses a credit card to establish a $50 account
with the online Inmate Innovators, an eTaskBoard implementation
specializing only in designing logos.
Using an online form, Henry writes a few
sentences to summarize his project and his audience, and describes the type of
logo that would appeal to him. This becomes a proposed task.
The Inmate Innovators Coordinator, a
private-sector employee, reviews Henry's proposed task and uses his
eTaskBoard's skillset matching tools to assign the task to inmate Wilson
who accepts the task to be done within 2 hours over the next 4 days.
With Wilson's labor rate previously agreed at
$15/hr, the Coordinator requests Henry to authorize the task at a not-to-exceed
Henry authorizes the task, and Wilson completes
it, passing his work product to the Coordinator for quality review. The
Coordinator accepts the logo and passes it to Henry. eTaskBoard's
ecommerce feature charges $30 against Henry's credit card, and distributes the
income into designated accounts such as eTaskBoard overhead, CDCR
operations, restitution, and Wilson's income.
Mary Morris, a San Diego Public Defender, needs
to file a motion to exclude evidence. Mary has an echeck-based account with the
online Inmates in Motion, an eTaskBoard which uses inmates to
file Superior Court motions.
Looking through task templates, Mary finds one
that describes the elements of an evidentiary motion. Mary edits that into a
task describing her requirements and proposes that to the Inmates in
Motion Coordinator, a jail employee.
The Coordinator finds inmate Jones the best-fit
worker to do the task. Jones accepts the task for 6 hours to be done over the
next 3 days.
With Jones's labor rate at $12/hr, the
Coordinator requests Mary to authorize the task at a not-to-exceed of $72,
which Mary does.
Jones does the legal research using the
knowledge base housed on the jail's computer, and writes the motion using
eTaskBoard's document editor in 5 hours. After reviewing the work
product for quality, the Coordinator passes the work product to Mary. As the
task status changes to done, eTaskBoard automatically removes $60 from
Mary's eTaskBoard account.
After reviewing the motion, Mary follows the
above procedure to authorize an additional task for one hour so Jones can
expand on an important point.
Dr. Allen Adams is a dentist at the VA Hospital
in Pacoima. As follow up to tooth implants, Dr. Adams has to pour over post
treatment x-rays. He has learned that if he asks trained technicians to also
look over the x-rays, his odds of finding important abnormalities
Dr. Adams uses Rehab Reinforcements, an
eTaskBoard implementation at CRC in Norco to assign a task with a
checklist to review 40 x-rays whose images he attaches to the task. In the
task, he includes references to knowledge base records on the jail server
showing the particular types of abnormalities that interest him.
With the help of eTaskBoard's skillset
matcher, the Rehab Reinforcements Coordinator, a consultant, finds
inmate Chang the best-fit worker to do the task. Chang accepts the task for 2
hours to be done by the next day.
With Chang's $20/hr rate, the Coordinator
proposes completing the task to Dr. Adams for $40. Dr. Adams, who prefers to
employ inmates as his good turn for society, nonetheless complains that the $40
is too high compared to private sector rates to do the same thing.
The Coordinator removes some implied
requirements from the task description, and then Chang says he can do that for
1.5 hours. The Coordinator proposes the task for $30, which Dr. Adams
Chang completes his x-ray review, attaching his
report to the task record, which the Coordinator passes to Dr. Adams. Dr.
Adams's eTaskBoard account is debited $30, with the proceeds distributed
into designated accounts such as eTaskBoard overhead, CDCR operations,
restitution, and Chang's income.
For an expanded collection of eTaskBoard specialties
for jail inmates, see our growing list. The actual
eTaskBoard implementation specialty is still open to discussions that
reflect the needs unique to the facility selected.
From a financial standpoint, Bizware is interested in
subsidizing such a proof-of-concept implementation if the odds of replication
within the jail community are high.
Transitioning Inmates to Work on the
Whether an inmate looks at eTaskBoard as
a job with a future or as hands-on training for a job with a future,
eTaskBoard can also improve the transition itself to work on the
outside. Instead of the disruptive change from jail life to finding a job on
the outside, a released inmate using eTaskBoard simply logs in from his
home to find the same environment, just without the need to communicate by
carrying a USB memory stick. The same type of tasks are in his to-do list.
There need be not one day's interruption from using eTaskBoard to
prepare for the future to using the same eTaskBoard to be part of the
From a jail authority standpoint, most of the
visibility into an inmate's work performance is just as available for a
parolee. A parole officer can monitor a parolee's daily work activities down to
the task level, much the same as a correctional officer can do for an inmate. A
parolee's inability or unwillingness to make progress on a work task, for
example, will be clearly evident from missed due dates on the task record, as
well as difficulties evidenced in the task notes. A report of successfully
completed tasks, on the other hand, would be just as indicative of a parolee
effectively rejoining the workforce. This unprecedented level of performance
detail provides the option of a more timely intervention response from the
parolee's support group.
Once released, a parolee may pursue traditional
employee placement, but knowing that on a part-time basis, eTaskBoard
can provide some work income. More importantly, eTaskBoard can provide
validated current work experience for those seeking traditional employment.
A jail needs to be selected to showcase the first
eTaskBoard for inmates. We are currently considering inmate facilities
within a reasonable drive from the offices of Bizware Online Applications in
San Clemente, CA.
The eTaskBoard specialty will be defined in
consultation with the managers of the selected facility. This specialty will
reflect the skillset inventory prevalent among that facility's inmate
population, what special restrictions need to be considered, including inmate
disabilities, and what knowledge-based work product the facility managers feel
would best represent their institution.
After we have a viable eTaskBoard
implementation to propose, we would need to find the right Coordinator to take
charge of the day-to-day operations of a showcase implementation. This
Coordinator can be an expansion of the duties of an existing facility employee
or contractor (with training), or a new person brought in for this project.
In summary, eTaskBoard is a way to leverage the
emerging virtual workplace to increase inmate income at the same time that we
provide factual reporting on the effectiveness of inmate job training programs
and reduce recidivism by preparing inmates for better paying jobs with a
- Workforce productivity is the amount of goods
and services that a worker produces in a given amount of time. Many complex
metrics go into computing this important statistic, but in all cases, the
denominator is the number of workers in order to arrive at the per-worker
average. An example may be:
[gross domestic product in dollars]
[number of workers]
According to the Organization for Economic
Cooperation and Development, this productivity metric in 2005 among
industrialized nations varied from 75 for Australia to 122 for Norway, with the
USA at 100. With the full range at ±20%, the standard deviation is 6%,
which by definition would be a significant productivity variation. A nation
that could boost productivity by 6% would enjoy a significant increase in
The United States has less than 5 percent of the
world's population, but it has almost a quarter of the world's jailers. With
2.3 million behind bars, every other country in the world trails the US.
Given that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
pegs the number of employed Americans at 153 million, the ratio of inmates to
workers is 1.5%. With the denominator of any productivity ratio increased by
1.5% without any increase in the output of the numerator, the productivity
penalty is 1.5%. That is 25% of the standard deviation in productivity between
industrialized nations, a significant penalty.
Many factors affect a nation's productivity, but
taken by itself, the loss of the inmate workforce has a significant negative
effect on America's productivity.
According to a survey conducted by the Telework
- 2.8 million Americans consider their home as
their primary workplace. This does not include the self employed or unpaid
volunteers, but even without them has already surpassed the nation's sizeable
- About 20 to 30 million Americans currently
work from home at least one day a week. These numbers represent a 74% increase
since 2005, with the rate of annual increases accelerating.
- 61% of federal employees are considered
eligible for telework, with 5.2% doing so on a regular basis.
- Mostly in response to high gas prices, 42% of
America's employers offer a telecommuting option for their employees, with the
- 37% of American workers would choose one job
over another specifically over the ability to telecommute.
- The household income of an average
- Under $40,000 = 10%
- $40-75,000 = 32%
- >$75,000 = 52%
Governmental support for teleworking began with
the foundations of the internet, developed by DARPA, a federal agency. Federal
support has been steady, culminating in the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010
and the launching of the Telework.gov website to encourage teleworking within
all aspects of the government.
Within California, the Department of General
Services has statutory authority to coordinate and facilitate policy,
procedures, and guidelines to assist agencies in their efforts to implement
telework. California's Government Code Section 14200.1.b. states "It is the
intent of the Legislature to encourage state agencies to adopt policies that
encourage telecommuting by state employees."
In another white paper, we present an overview
of the current state of inmate access to the internet, and the relevant
regulations and policies. We make the case for a secure, custody-based plan to
leverage this emerging technology instead of just fighting a rear-guard action
against its growth.
Included are the reasons email is more effective
to control and manage inmate communication than postal mail, visitation, or
telephone calls. Networked access to an inmate's workstation is presented as a
way to to increase surveillance and control..