After the last elections in Delaware, Democrats picked up quite a few seats in Dover. That’s when the folks at Delaware Correctional Industries were called into action.
“We had to go in and stretch the caucus room table at Legislative Hall,” says Carl Barker, DCI’s director.
A division of the state Department of Correction, DCI—through the work of inmates—provides services like auto repair, silk screening and furniture refinishing to other state agencies, helping those offices keep costs down, which benefits taxpayers.
DCI also provides services to schools, nonprofits (it’s re-doing the pews at St. John’s Catholic Church in Milford) and the public. Those services are also provided at reduced rates because of low labor costs. Inmates who work in DCI shops are paid from 25 cents an hour up to $2 an hour, depending on how long they’ve been employed.
Inmates receive training in the various trades used at DCI’s shops at the Vaughn Correctional Facility in Smyrna. The idea is to prepare inmates to land a job when they are released from prison, thus reducing the recidivism rate.
Barker says one inmate costs Delaware taxpayers about $34,000 annually, adding that 92 percent of the state’s prison population will eventually be released. So DCI works with the state Department of Education, for example, to train certified mechanics so that they will have a better chance of landing a job on the outside. DCI employed 276 inmates in 2011.
“Most of them have never worked anywhere, except selling drugs on the street corner,” Barker says. “I’d rather them be paying taxes than costing $34,000 a year.”