In just one more sign that today's prisons are not your grandfather's prisons where inmates only made license plates, Texas prisons have been turned into factories where inmates get training for all kinds of jobs on the outside, including high-tech IT jobs.



Computers and information technology is one of many fields where Texas prison inmates are learning a trade that can help them find work on the outside.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice started the Computer Recovery Program in 1999, under a state law that allows state agencies and political subdivisions to send surplus or salvage data processing equipment to the prisons to be refurbished or recycled.

Trained inmates do the work and the restored equipment is sold at low cost to school districts, state agencies or political subdivisions, in that order.

Computer repair and restoration is just one of the services provided by Texas Correctional Industries, a TDCJ department that manufactures products and provides services for state and local government agencies, public educational systems and other tax-supported entities.

The 1963 law that created TCI says its objectives are to train inmates for real-world jobs to reduce recidivism (return rate), and reduce TDCJ costs by providing products and services for the agency, and for sale on the outside.

Some people say programs like this amount to "coddling" criminals.

Others say most prison inmates will get out of prison some day, and we don't want them committing new crimes and returning to prison. It's in society's benefit to release them with marketable job skills.  If anything, TCI is "coddling" society.

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