No matter how they justify it, it is slave labour.
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.
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 msnbc.com 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. …
“Obviously, it saves taxpayer dollars,” Brian Fischer, commissioner of the state Corrections and Community Supervision Department, told NBC station WNYT of Albany. “Number two, it provides what we call a transferable skill.”. …
But Danny Donohue president of the New York Civil Service Employees Association, criticized the program for prioritizing marketable skills for prisoners over providing jobs to “law-abiding citizens.”
It’s “a bad idea generally and even worse considering the current economy,” Donohue said.