Washington Inmates to Work for Businesses - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Washington Inmates to Work for Businesses

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WALLA WALLA, Wash-- Four years after it was ruled in violation of the state's Constitution, prisons are once again turning to businesses to hire inmates.

Last November voters amended the State Supreme Court ruling.

The State Department of Corrections is contacting local chambers of commerce to reach out to local businesses willing to use inmate labor.  State senator Debbie Regala hopes work can begin next year.

"This would be a for-profit local business that could have a department within the penitentiary walls that would employ inmates, so I actually think it's a good step forward," says the President and CEO of the Walla Walla Chamber of Commerce, Dave Warkentin.

Inmate labor is a heavily debated topic because some argue it is unfair to give jobs to incarcerated criminals instead of the increasing number of unemployed.  Others say it is unfair because the inmates aren't guaranteed health benefits.    

The prison argues it helps train the inmate before they are released.  Studies show it also can help prevent recidivism.