What is a Work Release Program?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 07 February 2020
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When people are incarcerated, in most instances, they remain in the confines of the correctional facility until they are released. In some instances, however, trusted prisoners are released for certain periods to work. This is known as a work release program.

Work release programs may not be available in all jurisdictions. In locations where the programs are available, they may function according to different rules and regulations. In some instances, inmates are released from the correctional facility where they are being held during work hours each day. Upon completing their daily duties, they are taken back to the correctional facility.

In these instances, a working inmate is generally forbidden from leaving the work area for lunch breaks or personal reasons. It is usually a violation of the terms for him to accept personal visitors while he is working, including during his breaks. Furthermore, he is usually not permitted to make any stops on the way to and from his place of employment.


There is another type of work release that allows criminals to live as free individuals during the work week. Then, on the weekends, which generally begin on Friday evenings, the person must report to a correctional facility. He will then be subject to normal terms of incarceration until Sunday night. He may be allowed to serve the entirety of his sentence this way. When a work release program allows a prisoner to be free during the week, he is often required to pay the facility for the weekend days that he spends in the correctional facility.

Work release programs are not available to all inmates. Such programs are generally restricted to those whom authorities believe have displayed their trustworthiness. This is necessary because work release programs generally involve releasing inmates to private employers. It is, therefore, necessary for authorities to feel confident that those individuals will not try to escape and they will not harm innocent individuals they may work with. In situations where the criminals are free during the week, authorities need to feel confident that they will report to the facility when they are supposed to.

There are believed to be many positive benefits to work release programs. To begin with, if a person loses his job due to a criminal conviction, it may be difficult for him to find another job. To reduce the amount of unemployment connected with criminal convictions, it can be more beneficial to allow an individual to continue working.

When individuals participate in a work release program while incarcerated, it can provide them with a means of support both during incarceration and afterward. This can eliminate the financial burden on his family and on society. It can also minimize the chances that the lack of financial resources for things such as food and shelter will drive the person to crime upon his release.


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