Prisoner call centers

Prisoners answering the telephone for your government? Yes, apparently.

M. Alex Johnson of and Bill Lambdin of WNYT-TV wrote yesterday for MSNBC, Inside the secret industry of inmate-staffed call centers,

When you call a company or government agency for help, there’s a good chance the person on the other end of the line is a prison inmate.

The federal government calls it “the best-kept secret in outsourcing” — providing inmates to staff call centers and other services in both the private and public sectors.

The U.S. government, through a 75-year-old program called Federal Prison Industries, makes about $750 million a year providing prison labor, federal records show. The great majority of those contracts are with other federal agencies for services as diverse as laundry, construction, data conversion and manufacture of emergency equipment.

We’ve heard of Prison Industries before. The Georgia prisoners who struck back in January 2011 work for Prison Industries, allegedly for no pay.
But the program also markets itself to businesses under a different name, Unicor, providing commercial market and product-related services. Unicor made about $10 million from “other agencies and customers” in the first six months of fiscal year 2011 (the most recent period for which official figures are available), according to an analysis of its sales records.

The Justice Department and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons don’t

break down which companies they do business with. But Unicor said inmates provide private call center service, including data review and sales lead generation, for “some of the top companies in America” under a federal mandate to help companies repatriate jobs they have outsourced overseas.
We’ve heard of UNICOR before. It apparently says it “supplies numerous electronic components and service for guided missiles, including the Patriot Advanced Capability Missile (PAC-3)”. So apparently in addition to building weapons for the military, UNICOR supplies prisoners to answer your calls to your government and to companies.

Maybe you’re out of a job. Can you compete with 23 cents an hour?

And the state of Georgia wants to privatize the prisons themselves, providing more profits to select private industry at the expense of the prisoners and of you, the taxpayers. We don’t need a private prison in Lowndes County, Georgia. Spend those tax dollars on rehabilitation and education instead. Follow this link to petition the Valdosta-Lowndes County Industrial Authority.