The most dangerous prison inmates don’t get to spend time outside, but there are plenty of prison programs around the world that allow inmates to work in various capacities. In parts of Arizona, inmates can still even work on chain gangs. In Brazil, one prison is letting its inmates make a unique contribution to society–one that could ultimately reduce their sentences.
The program, held in a maximum security prison near São Paolo, lets inmates pedal indoor bikes to generate power. All the electricity generated goes towards powering up lights in the surrounding town. In an interview with Euronews, Prison Director Gilson Rafael Silva explained that the program’s benefits for inmates are threefold: the prisoners get exercise, lose weight, and for every three days of pedaling, their sentence is reduced by one day. Not a bad deal.
This isn’t the only attempt we’ve seen to make prison life more sustainable. The Sustainable Prisons Project, an initiative from the Washington State Department of Corrections, trains employees for green jobs and involves them in ecological experiments. Recently, inmates have raised 311 Oregon Spotted Frogs to grow the local population and built bird boxes for endangered birds.