Many inmate jobs are low paying manual labor or
factory jobs, partly due to the misguided perception by prospective employers
that all inmates are uneducated and unskilled, and partly due to the difficulty
of bringing high-paying jobs to the prison setting. Besides reducing the income
to the state, restitution programs, and the inmate, this also prepares the
inmate for a job that is in low demand as factory jobs move to places like
China. The net result is an underpaid inmate who is not well prepared to rejoin
the workforce, and thus increases recidivism.
Compounding this are the inmates, particularly the
younger ones, arriving with valuable computer-based skills 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, prisoners 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 appropriate, we should look for approaches that do not also punish the rest
Given their commuting limitations, we view prison
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 released inmates or parolees to the
private sector can be a seamless process whereby workers are reassigned to
direct online eTaskBoard access from their homes.
- Monitoring and managing a paroled inmate's
work-related activities is far simpler and more reliable with eTaskBoard
than via 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 human, 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 Bizware 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 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
hosting, maintenance, and support.
Implementation within the prison system will be different. A
small, proof-of-concept implementation would be more 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 below:
As a variation of the basic eTaskBoard
prison 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 prison's Information Security Officer.
To increase inmate productivity, they can be given
access to the eTaskBoard modules as deemed worthwhile by prison
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 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, institute
operations, restitution, and Wilson's income.
Mary Morris, a 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 prison 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 prison'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.
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
his x-rays, his odds of finding important abnormalities increases.
Dr. Adams uses Rehab Reinforcements, an
eTaskBoard implementation 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 prison 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.
For an expanded collection of eTaskBoard specialties
for prison inmates, see our growing list. The actual
eTaskBoard implementation specialty is open to discussions that reflect
the needs unique to the facility we select.
From a financial standpoint, Bizware is interested in
subsidizing such a proof-of-concept implementation because the odds of
replication within the prison 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. Instead of the
disruptive change from prison life to finding a job on the outside, released
inmates using eTaskBoard simply log in from their 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 their 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 future.
From a prison 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 from the parolee's
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 prison needs to be selected to showcase the first
eTaskBoard for inmates. The eTaskBoard specialty could 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.
In summary, eTaskBoard is a way to leverage the
emerging virtual workplace to increase inmate income at the same time that we
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 prisoners. 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..