6 Prison Jobs That Are Probably Better Than Yours
If one misguided lesson could be taken away from The Shawshank Redemption, it's that a prison term is not the end of the world for somebody aspiring to retire rich to a beachfront house. But let's be honest here: Incarceration tends to produce some holes in a resume.
Fortunately, there are several ways to spin a prison term to a potential employer. Depending on the nature of the crime and which jurisdiction it was committed in, you can wind up with a job that, to be frank, is probably cooler than the one you have now. Like ...
Working as a Roadie for a Band
OK, so your rock star dreams didn't work out. Still, you can work in the biz, right? You could become a roadie, go to shows for free and set up amps and stuff for famous bands. Maybe you'll get to meet Nickelback! Or at least get in on some groupie action. But how do you get a job like that?
Apart from renouncing God?
Well, you could try committing a crime. If you get tossed into Rikers Island Correctional Facility in New York, you and your fellow inmates can wind up employed as roadies for visiting concerts at Coney Island's Asser Levy Park.
"Asser Levy Park: The greatest smack-to-body ratio on earth."
Facing budget cutbacks, the borough of Brooklyn has turned to inmates as a low cost alternative to help with the setup and tear down at their concerts. And we're not talking about helping out local bar bands, either -- inmates have been used to set up for (and clean up after) the B-52's, the Beach Boys, Cheap Trick and George Thorogood. Wait, does the program only apply to '80s bands?
We can't be sure who's committed the bigger crime here.
Lest the felons decide to steal a souvenir for themselves (like a guitar pick, or a family member), Department of Corrections spokesmen say the prisoners are all carefully monitored during the day's labor, and that only the most non-violent ones are randomly selected to go just minutes before the buses leave. Somehow, the program has met with mixed reactions from the community.
They really fucking hate the B-52's.
Still, it seems like a pretty sweet deal for some lucky inmates. Imagine you're a guest of the state and your plans for the day consist of not becoming someone's girlfriend, when a guard taps you on the shoulder and tells you that you're working on a chain gang. But instead of finding yourself picking up litter on the side of a highway, you're setting up a show for 38 Special. Sure beats the hell out of working in the prison laundry.
When you think of a prisoner building a weapon, the most common image is some crude form of knife made out of a toothbrush. Really, say what you want about prisoners, but you can't help but admire the creativity that inmates show when it comes time to fashion a makeshift arsenal.
Every one of these is designed for rectal use.
In an attempt to capitalize on this untapped resource, one company named Unicor (formerly known as the much cooler Federal Prison Industries) has put all of that destructive creative energy to work. With deals for such defense contractors as General Dynamics, McDonnell Douglas, Lockheed Martin and Textron, Unicor employees get paid a starting salary of 23 cents an hour to build components for the F-15 and F-16 fighter jets, the Patriot Missile System and the Cobra attack helicopter.
"Ground, the autopilot is taking me above the correction facility yard. Confirm. Please confirm!"
And what could possibly go wrong with allowing convicts to work with heavy weapons? It's not like it's possible for someone in captivity to use parts from various weapons systems to build some type of robotic exoskeleton and go on a one-man rampage.
Unicor takes an altruistic view on their activities. As one Unicor executive said, "Prisons without meaningful activities for inmates are dangerous prisons, and dangerous prisons are expensive prisons." We have to say, he kind of has a point.
Restoring Classic Cars
On the scale of ultimate "guy jobs" that a guy could realistically get, working on high-end sports cars falls somewhere between sports broadcaster and porn editor. Yet some prisoners get to do it. One company, Unique Performance, contracted inmates to build Shelby GT's and other six-figure rides.
Well, hell, that works out for everybody, right? The inmates get a dream job, and rich dudes suffering a mid-life crisis get a kick-ass car. And they can drive it knowing that every minute spent building it was teaching some con the skills he'd need out in the real world. Everybody wins!
This guy now knows how to hotwire Aston Martins AND Lamborghinis!
Well, on paper, anyway. These enterprising convicts, under the direction of Unique Performance, decided to be a little creative in how they restored these Shelbys. It was discovered that close to 13 gallons of Bondo was used in each restored car. Bondo is kind of like Silly Putty; it's used (sparingly) to fill dents on damaged body frames. It is also fairly universally agreed to be the cheapest and shittiest product ever invented for body work. No reputable mechanic would ever use substantial amounts of it on his own car, let alone a piece of art like a Shelby GT.
"Alright, I'm ready for the Maserati."
Dozens of people, ranging from former Secret Service agents to Hollywood actors, were taken in by this scam, paying up to $200,000 for vehicles that were built with the same attention to artistic craft and detail as the average prison tattoo.
That's Sanskrit for "hackjob."
OK, we're now a little nervous about that previous entry involving military weapon system components. But, we're thinking inmate labor is probably all about the supervision. Leave a bunch of convicts to their own devices and you're lucky you don't wind up with a makeshift Flame Throwing Prison Escape Murder Tank.
Saving an Endangered Species
Now here's one that sounds like the setup for a feel-good Free Willy-type movie starring Morgan Freeman. They're tough-guy inmates ... banding together to save an endangered species! They're breeding rare animals in captivity ... while in captivity themselves! Honestly, it's the kind of plot so corny it'd make your grandma roll her eyes.
"You know what's no longer an endangered species? My heart."
And, yes, it's completely real. The Oregon spotted frog is the threatened species, currently a candidate for the endangered species list. We suppose it's natural that Oregon and Washington State, both so full of unemployed hipsters and retired hippies that they're on the verge of being depicted on their state flags, would want to do something to save the frogs. You would not have thought that one of the more successful programs to save them would be run by convicts at the Cedar Creek Correctional Facility in Littlerock, Washington.
Slimy, unloved, forgotten and under-appreciated. But let's talk about the frogs.
Inmates help care for tadpoles until they're old enough to be released, and unlike the fiasco with the classic cars we just mentioned, this program has exceeded all expectations. Cedar Creek frogs have grown stronger and healthier than frogs in other breeding programs, all because of the careful feeding and care provided by the felons.
And get this -- the program has been so successful that researchers from more traditional programs (ones involving laboratories and trained scientisty people) are actually coming to Cedar Creek to study the convicts' methods.
"I learned not to hug them the hard way."
Reportedly, when the frogs are ready they'll be released into an ironically named area known as the Joint Base Lewis McChord wetlands. The credits will roll, the inmates will have learned an important lesson about the sanctity of life and a tearful warden (again, Morgan Freeman) will stride in and announce that the governor has granted them all a pardon and that they are free to go.
Also the governor will be Freeman and all the prisoners will be Freeman with different hats.
Hell, the only way the premise would be more Disney-ready is if they were raising horses.
Who doesn't love horses? No one, right? You might even love them to the point where you'd be tempted to buy one. And what better horse to buy than one you can adopt, preferably one born in captivity and domesticated by inmates! Hell, you practically get an inspirational montage in your head at the mere mention of it.
They even know the horse whisper -- "Fuck around and I swear I will shank you."
Enter the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and inmates from the Warm Springs Correctional Facility in Carson City, Nevada (other prisons have started running similar programs as well). Basically, the convicts are used to train horses born in captivity for sale and adoption by private citizens, and even disabled children.
Training horses born in captivity is harder than it sounds, and it sounds pretty damn hard to begin with. Those horses are difficult to train because the early contact they have with humans causes them to pick up certain human habits and traits. Habits like sensing moods, anger and stubbornness, and acting out accordingly. Good thing inmates aren't moody and don't have anger issues.
Unfortunately, this horse now drives a pickup and wishes the South had won.
The angle is two-fold: On one hand, the prisoner gets to learn a skill and take pride in knowing that the animal he's raising could eventually brighten the day of some disabled child. On the other hand, by having prisoners train a horse, it increases its value from $125 to over $1,000, thus enabling the prisoner to "earn his keep," or as a more cynical person might put it, "make a ton of money for the prison system."
"Yee-haw, I'm funding my own incarceration!"
People interested in a horse adoption are encouraged to swing on by and start the bidding. But don't wear blue jeans. Why? Because you might be accidentally confused for an inmate and thrown in jail. Happy bidding!
Create a TV Network
As we said, breaking into the entertainment business isn't easy, and maybe as a prisoner you aspire to something more than setting up amps for Cheap Trick. But what other options do you have? You don't live in the Philippines, so you don't have much hope of becoming a dancing star on YouTube.
God, American prisons are so restrictive.
Well, if you do your time in Louisiana, you can wind up helping run an entire TV network.
LSPTv (Louisiana State Penitentiary TV) is an entire closed-circuit television station run by and for inmates. It's the only such network in the nation, offering a rather unique employment opportunity in an industry that even non-incarcerated people have trouble breaking into. Convicts are responsible for filming, editing, production, staffing and every other aspect of the magic that is television programming.
Including being run into the ground and having to fellate the production staff.
That programming includes everything from convict football games, the biannual Angola Prison Rodeo, inmate-produced musical variety programs and Tuesday night boxing. And we have to say ... we would totally watch the hell out of all of that. It's ironic how a group of convicted felons in one of the most violent prisons in the country can put together a better and more diverse programming lineup than the network executives at CBS.
This shit is encouraged here.
Perhaps the inmates have a stronger motivation to provide quality entertainment to an audience that would have no problem expressing their displeasure with a sharpened chunk of bed frame to the ribs.
"My letter-writing campaign failed, so I just started posting ears in the envelopes."
Benjamin Buso lives in Texas and thankfully has never had any of these jobs during his diverse and unique employment history.
And see how you can squander that job away in 6 Bizarre Forms of Discrimination That Can Lose You a Job. Or see why your employer isn't that bad in The 6 Most Horrific Bosses of All Time.