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Construction Program Guide

Convict Produced Material / Convict Labor

FHWA policy prohibits the use of convict labor and material for projects located on Federal-aid highways.

Authority/Legal Basis

  • 23 USC 114 Construction (2012) Subsection (b) Convict Labor and Convict Produced Materials provides the statutory basis for the convict produced material and convict labor prohibitions. The prohibition is limited by statute to projects on a "Federal-aid system". However, since the 1991 ISTEA modified the definition of a "Federal-aid system" without changing the language in Section 114, the applicability of the prohibition has been interpreted by FHWA to mean projects located on Federal-aid highways. See Mr. Schimmoller's May 9, 1996 memorandum.
  • 23 CFR 117(a) (4/1/2013) No construction work shall be performed by convict labor at the work site or within the limits of any Federal-aid highway construction project from the time of award of the contract or the start of work on force account until final acceptance of the work by the STD unless it is labor performed by convicts who are on parole, supervised release, or probation.
  • 23 CFR 635.417 Convict produced materials (4/1/2013) provides the FHWA's regulatory policy for convict produced materials. Such materials are prohibited from use on the Federal-aid highway system, except that "Materials produced after July 1, 1991, by convict labor may only be incorporated in a Federal-aid highway construction project if such materials have been:
    1. Produced by convicts who are on parole, supervised release, or probation from a prison or
    2. Produced in a qualified prison facility and the cumulative annual production amount of such materials for use in Federal-aid highway construction does not exceed the amount of such materials produced in such facility for use in Federal-aid highway construction during the 12-month period ending July 1, 1987."

FHWA HQ polled the Division Offices to determine the types, quantities, and costs of convict-produced materials produced in each State for the 12-month period ending July 1, 1987. The allowable material types and quantities the results of the survey are in the table below. States not listed did not incorporate convict produced materials into its Federal-aid highway construction products during that period. By statute, each state listed is limited to the convict-produced materials and quantities shown:

State Material Quantity Cost
California Aluminum Tear Drop Assemblies 3,500 ea $2,800
Aluminum Guide Plates 5,000 ea $5,750
Type K Markers 2,200 ea $7,786
Total   $16,536
District Of Columbia Sign Material Not stated $325,000
Iowa Signs 21,408 sq.ft. $152,384
Michigan Signs 335 ea $9,752
Missouri Signs 42,829 ea $506,573
North Carolina Signs 8,938 ea $850,652
Pavement Markings 25,900 gal. $116,298
Total   $966,950
North Dakota Signs - High Intensity 62,784 sq.ft. $373,370
Signs - Engineering Grade 26,664 sq.ft. $83,256
Totals 89,448 sq.ft. $456,625
Rhode Island Signing Material 4,851 ea $195,521
Utah Signs 12,000 sq.ft. $66,000
Vermont Posts 32,202 ea Not Stated
Offset Blocks 11,149 ea
Ties 7,911 ea
Lumber 76,604 bd.ft.
Signs 43,572 sq.ft.
Virginia Sign Blanks 45,977 sq.ft. $92,413
Washington Signs 46,000 sq.ft. $184,000


General Information
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Updated: 04/28/2016
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