Everyone in prison must work. Staff calls it “programming” and if someone refuses to work they get written up for “refusing to program.” In reality, it`s the prisoners that keep a prison running. They do everything from maintenance to plumbing to electrical work to laundry to food service, and so on. When the prisons went on lockdown during COVID-19, everything ground to a halt in the prisons because there were no prisoner-workers to run things.
What to Do on Arrival in Prison
So the first thing someone getting to a new prison should do is find a decent job. If you don`t find a job, staff will automatically assign you one — and it`s usually a job everyone hates: food service. You`ve got about two weeks to find a good job.
The best jobs are commissary work, medical orderly, and any of the “clerk” jobs as assistants to staff. However, these jobs are almost never given to sex offenders because staff saves them for the “stand-up” guys. That is, they save them for non-sex offenders.
Here`s how messed up this can be. At one BOP prison, they wouldn`t allow sex offenders to work in commissary. When thousands of dollars in postage stamps were stolen, they fired those guys and then hired another group of stand-up guys. When staff found holes in a wall where these guys would hide products they intended to steal, they fired them and then hired yet another group of stand-up guys. And so it continued. Maybe prison staff didn`t care since all of commissary is paid by prisoners buying stuff in commissary, even staff wages.
So when I landed at another prison after my custody level dropped again, I was surprised to see that commissary was run entirely by sex offenders! In fact, the sex offenders held nearly every decent job in the prison.
Sex Offenders Make Trusted Workers
Why such a different attitude toward sex offenders at this prison?
Well, commissary had a major theft problem with the stand-up guys, the same as the other prison I mentioned. But when they fired these guys, this time they replaced them with sex offenders. Boom! Theft problem solved. Next everyone knew, staff was hiring sex offenders to work all the coveted jobs there.
Staff at that prison realized that they could trust sex offenders. Who would`ve thought that hiring people who have almost all held careers before being locked up would make good employees? Well, at least one prison figured this out.
How to Find Out Which Jobs Accept Sex Offenders
I strongly suggest to sex offenders that upon arrival at a new BOP prison, they should immediately ask about jobs. Talk to other sex offenders and find out what`s available. Ask them about the “politics” with sex offenders working certain jobs. By this, I mean find out if there are certain jobs that simply won`t hire sex offenders and are saved for non-sex offenders. Don`t assume that a sex offender can`t work a certain job. Ask!
If you want to work in food service, great. Some people like the job because it`s busy and they get to eat better food (usually) and lots more of it. By you making the request for a job in food service, staff will likely treat you better than the guys who are forced to work in there. You`ll get the better shift and maybe even a higher pay grade.
The Pay Sucks!
And don`t plan on making a ton of money. There are four “grades” of pay: Grade 1 is 40 cents per hour, Grade 2 is 28 cents per hour, Grade 3 is 12 cents per hour, and Grade 4 is 8 cents per hour. By policy, 80% of the jobs at the prison are Grades 3 and 4, while only 5% are Grade 1. If you don`t have a GED, you won`t get more than Grade 4 pay. The good thing is that the BOP pays you to get your GED! The average worker in prison makes about $20 to $30 a month.
What Are the Best Jobs for Sex Offenders?
So what are the best jobs for sex offenders? Aside from the ones I just mentioned above, Education is a good place for sex offenders to work. This includes the law library and the leisure library, as well as working as a “tutor” for the GED classes. Each staff GED teacher hires their own tutors, so get with them if you want to do that job.
If you like to be outside, get a job working the “compound,” as it`s called. This includes lots of things, from picking up trash to landscaping. A compound job is rather easy to get and you can wander around the grounds doing very little, if you want. There`s also Facilities, which usually tolerates sex offenders, especially if they know how to fix things. Good at HVAC? You`ll get a solid job in Facilities. Plumbing? Same thing. Use your skills to your advantage.
There`s your top choices of jobs for sex offenders in the BOP, so get on it!
Dale Chappell is the author of the upcoming Insider`s Guide: Doing Time as a Sex Offender and has hundreds of published articles on post-conviction relief and sex offense issues.