The other day I read that 1% of American adults are in jail, an all-time high. The article mentions how it's such an economic burden to have so many people incarcerated. I'm going to avoid the debate about whether those people should be in prison to begin with, and just focus on the money problem.
Why aren't more of these prisoners, especially the low-risk offenders, put to work? There's plenty of cleanup work (road repairs, litter cleanup) for the really low-risk ones to do outside, and the more dangerous ones can be put to work on assembly lines doing free work for the government. Maybe private firms could even pay small hourly rates to the government to use the prison workforce for special projects. If done correctly, it could even lower taxes since fewer government employees would be required for the work that prisoners did.