Brian Peteritas is a GOVERNING contributor.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Putting prisoners to work isn't a novel concept, but for the inmates, it usually means cleaning up highways. The New York Times reports that a program in Washington state is using prisoners as researchers to address budget gaps in habitat restoration and ecology.
The program, Sustainability in Prisons, has inmates in four state prisons performing tedious tasks like monitoring water temperatures and feeding frogs. A state biologist helps train the prisoners, who must compete to enter the program and maintain a perfect behavioral record while participating. They're paid the standard prison wage of 42 cents an hour. Several former inmates who participated in the program have earned education degrees and/or jobs in the science field since the program started in 2004, reports the Times.