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Prison Jobs (2)…

In Prison Jobs (1), I spoke to the general issue of prisoner employment and pay throughout the United States—50 independent prison systems.  In this segment, I’ll address the federal system.

UNICOR Furniture Factory

Most facility jobs, as in the state prison systems, start and pretty much end at 12¢/hr.  The major exception is UNICOR.

Relatively speaking, Federal Prison Industries, Inc. (UNICOR) is a bright spot in the American gulag.    Created by Congress back in the midst of the last depression (1934) with the cooperation of gov’t and American unions, it’s controlled by a 5-member Board of Directors appointed by the president.

Contrary to the belief of many inmates, UNICOR is not a private corporation.  It has no stock to sell.  Nor are prosecutors and judges holders of such (non-existent) stock.

I suspect the drive for that belief is borne in the wide disparity between what facility workers earn (mostly 12¢/hr.), and UNICOR workers earn (an average of 93¢/hr.).  Most UNICOR factories have a 1-to-2 year waiting list.

UNICOR is a wholly-owned gov’t corporation, like the Postal Service and Amtrak.  UNICOR provides voluntary inmates with factory work exclusively for use and sale to gov’t agencies.

Products and services include electronics, furniture systems, graphics, data processing, recycling, printing, metals fabrication, and textiles.

UNICOR maintains factories in over 70 federal prisons and employs about 25,000 inmates (12% of the federal Bureau of Prisons [BOP] population).  Pay ranges from 23¢ to $1.15/hr.  (Longevity pay and overtime can add to that.)

Inmate-workers are required to pay up to half of their salary if there are any court-ordered debts, restitution, family support, etc.

UNICOR workers are a significant source of income to their families, and are among the most compliant of prisoners with the lowest recidivism rate.  (The recidivism rate for the general prison population is 67% return within 3 years.)

UNICOR workers are a critical example of discipline and responsibility, which, one might imagine, would be a prison goal.

Poly-Sci/Psych Notes:

Despite the success story of UNICOR, it’s a fact that privateers and the retribution/punishment crowd oppose all gov’t industry and employment in favor of privatization and their own profit.  (Info on this question can be found at another site.  We will endeavor to present a near-future article ourselves.)

     It should be little surprise that UNICOR is under sustained attack by Congressional conservatives.  Some believe it was born in Roosevelt “socialism” and is an undeserved hand-out to criminals—mostly poor and black ones at that.

     The position of this site is that a prison system should have both a rehabilitative mission and the treatment of prisoners as they would wish them in turn to treat others.  

     The rational goal would be to deter their return and reconcile them with their respective communities (unless, of course, there is a competing goal for their continued incarceration and employment at virtual slave wages–to the significant loss of free-world jobs, unionization, and wages.) 

     In reality, the overall recidivism rate (67% within 3 yrs of release) correlates significantly with the manner in which prisoners are treated:  the harsher and more punitive the treatment, the worse their behavior and greater their return.

     As a doctor of psychology [PsyD] I could advise the authoritarians that this is perfectly anticipated:  It is a well known diagnostic axiom that abuse begets abuse.  The authoritative/punitive personalities that largely run the prisons, simply create more of the same.  A self-perpetuating, vicious cycle.

The hate starts in the mirror…

               Dr. Publico

Category: Prison Jobs, Psychology
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2 Responses
  1. Bob Sloan says:

    Well said Dr. Publico. FYI in 1999 the US House of Representatives, Sub Committe on Crime, of the Judiciary Committee held hearings on Options to improve and expand the BOP’s industries. That hearing was chaired by Florda Representative, Bill McCollum (currently the Fl. A.G.) and he urged UNICOR to adopt the business plans and procedures in use by PRIDE of Florida and to join the state prison industries under the PIECP umbrella. This would allow UNICOR to expand and create more products manufactured in more industries for more customers. At the same time it would allow private US Corporations to partner with UNICOR and use federal inmates to manufacture their products, providing those partner corporations with increased product lines and profits.

    Gladly, Representative McCollum was unsuccessful in persuading the BOP to transition to PIECP.

  2. […] several previous articles here at the American tribune, I’ve spoken to the issues of prison […]

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