Inmates Learning Valuable Skills As Prison Bakers

AIRWAY HEIGHTS, Wash. - Washington State?s prison system is putting more inmates to work while they're behind bars in the hopes of saving taxpayers money.

One way they?re saving money is by baking bread. All of the bread served to Washington State prisoners is now made at the Airway Heights Corrections Center.

By using inmate labor to bake buns and brownies from scratch the correctional industries program is driving down food costs.

?Well one of the reasons we exist is to be a tax reduction organization. We lower the costs of institutions and lower the costs of operations to the institutions,? Lyle Morris with the Department of Corrections said.

The food factory at Airway Heights also turns out trays of frozen food. Some of it goes to Meals on Wheels programs in King County while local jails also buy the pre-made dinners, which means the factory is turning a profit through its food contracts.

Inmates are paid up to $1.60 an hour and their wages help pay off their fines and restitution.

As an incentive to reduce violence behind bars, only well-behaved prisoners are allowed to work in the bakery and those offenders-turned-bakers also say they're learning a job skill they can put to work when they get out.

?I have a skill base other than the food industry but I feel I can carry this as part of my resume, as part of my criteria, back to the streets and become an active part of society,? inmate worker Donald Kanne said.

When they are released, inmates working in the correctional industries program walk out the front door with more than just a job skill, they also have a savings account with enough money for food and first month's rent.