PIECP Oversight Authority
The PIECP program operates under the statutory authority of the U.S. Congress pursuant to Title 42 USC 1761(c). The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) was given Congressional authority to oversee the implementation of the PIECP program in 1979. The DOJ assigned program operation, oversight and investigative authority to the Department's Office of Justice Programs (OJP). The OJP turned the program over to the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA).
In 1999 the BJA released the PIECP Final Guidelines after time was provided for potential participants, the OJP and other interested parties to comment on the program and it's guideline proposals. In 2000 these Final Guidelines (Guidelines) were implemented and existing PIECP participants came under the authority of these permanent Guidelines.
The Guidelines contained numerous sections relating to all aspects of the program operations: criteria for participation, who can participate, different "models" (Customer and Employer), wages, benefits, forms to be completed and included instructions for Certification of program participants along with instructions that participating industries must be reviewed annually to insure continued compliance with the Guideline's mandatory requirements.The BJA promptly assigned the full operation of the program oversight, operation, investigations and initial review and follow-up annual pre-review's of compliance to the National Correctional Industries Association (NCIA), a private non-profit corporate entity. A Government grant was provided to fund the NCIA's duties of oversight and investigative reviews required by the program Guidelines.
Since 1995, funding to the National Correctional Industries Association, the grant recipient to provide training, technical assistance and monitor the PIECP program, has grown from a few hundred thousand to $1.6 million per year, while the program has grown from 1,724 inmates employed in more than 80 industries to 5,103 inmates employed in over 200 industries across 36 states, and the inmates earned approximately $276.5 million and returned $162.3 million to the economy in the form of room and board, taxes, family support and victims' compensation.
By the time the program was in full swing, operating under the Final Guidelines, the federal agencies had very little left to do. The NCIA turned in reports to the BJA on program statistics and reviews. Any complaints to the DOJ or OJP, were directed to the BJA for response or investigation. The BJA re-directed queries and complaints to the NCIA for investigation and response.
Complaints made by us and other advocates to the DOJ, BJA and OJP resulted in those issues being sent to the NCIA for investigation. To date, the NCIA has failed to respond to the complaints or to issue results of even a cursory investigation report to the BJA, OJP, DOJ or those of us who filed the complaints.
Conducting our own thorough investigation, PIECP-Violations discovered a basis for the non-response attitude of the NCIA. This "Private Association" is made up of a membership that consists of administrators, supervisors, management personnel and others affiliated with the prison industries located in each state or territory. In addition, the material suppliers, vendors, shippers and PIECP partner businesses are members of the NCIA with individuals upon the Board of Directors of the NCIA.
In essence the BJA - an arm of the Department of Justice - turned complete control and oversight over to an agency made up of members of the very industries that are to be overseen. This is a true example of "The fox guarding the henhouse!"
Due to the membership of the NCIA having their own agenda regarding the operation of the PIECP program and participants, there are virtually no investigations conducted when complaints are filed with the NCIA or the Government agencies who provide the grant under which they operate.
In 2006 the NCIA advised that due to "funding shortfalls" the scheduled annual reviews that are required by the Guidelines would be changed. Reviews of participating industries would be conducted every 2 years instead of annually. In addition the NCIA stated they would be handling a large portion of these 2 year reviews by "desk audits". A desk audit is conducted using pre-existing documentation already on file for the audited prison industry and the NCIA Auditor merely examines the documents and at most contacts the participant via phone to ask any questions that may arise. There is little chance that a face to face or site audit will be done upon many of the industry operations.
Finally the NCIA issued another revision instructing that of the total program participants, only about one third would be reviewed for compliance on the 2 year schedule. These revisions mean that only 1/3 of the program participants are actually reviewed for compliance on a 24 month schedule. Of those reviewed, approximately 25% are reviewed via a desk assessment without actual visits to the prison industry itself.
In 2004 and 2005 we filed complaints with the BJA, NCIA, OJP and DOJ. I spoke personally with the Policy Advisor of the BJA, Mr. Julius Dupree and their PIECP Coordinator, Barbara Auerbach. In these conversations I asked several important questions relating to the operations and Guideline requirements of the PIE Program. None of the questions posed were answered in the phone interviews or emails we provided to the BJA and NCIA. The questions posed were:
1. Does the industry wide payment of state or federal minimum wages to inmate workers in Florida (PRIDE Industries) satisfy the prevailing wage requirement of the PIECP Guidelines?
2. When otherwise prohibited by state law(s) from selling prisoner made goods to the public, private sector manufacturers or retailers, does PIECP participation and partnership with a private sector business override state law and allow sales of prisoner made goods to otherwise restricted customers and consumers within the state of manufacture?
3. Is there any provision within the PIECP guidelines or law that exempts PIECP participating industries or their private sector partners from the mandatory guideline requirements (wages, benefits, etc.) when prison made products are being manufactured and sold strictly within the state of manufacture?
4. Are PIECP participating industries required to pay prevailing wages to inmate workers who manufacture sub-assembly parts or products that are later assembled at another PIECP industry for PIECP orders? And do products drawn from inventory to fill PIECP orders require the payment of prevailing wages to the inmates who manufactured them, applied retroactively?
To date none of the foregoing and important question have been addressed or answered by the BJA, NCIA, DOJ or OJP. On June 16th I re-submitted the above questions to the office of Deputy Director of the OJP for response...again.
Please visit the NCIA Link on left of the page for more info on this "agency".