Fresh Paint
Sunday, July 18, 2004
Our Own Gulag Labor Right Here at Home
Chicago Tribune | Prison labor is cheap, tough for private companies to beat:
Devastation struck makers of office furniture between 2000 and 2002 as industry sales plunged 28 percent--or $4.1 billion--and domestic furniture companies laid off tens of thousands of workers.

Yet at a firm called Unicor, office-furniture sales jumped nearly 30 percent during the same period because of two distinct advantages:

The company's workforce of prisoners earns between 23 cents and $1.15 per hour. And federal agencies are required to buy from Unicor, which is run by the Federal Bureau of Prisons....
Businesses complain FPI abuses its near-monopoly powers over federal contracts by charging more than market prices and going so far as buying products from private companies, marking them up and reselling them to the government, costing taxpayers money without benefiting prisoners.

"You are basically building in a double [profit] margin," Nelson said.
According to their own report, this is indeed the case, though characterizing these numbers as "100% returned to the private sector" is a bit republican (i.e., probably untrue) of them. Maybe they could return some of it to the government itself, to maybe pay for all the travel to trade shows and stuff as advertised on the site?

But check the sale pages! I prefer the cozy gray sweatpants, but you can get a great clearance deal for your MP5 Firearms Case. Have your credit card handy. Or maybe not. A note on the site says:
Because UNICOR's mission is to employ inmates and provide self-improvement opportunities, it is necessary for us to take appropriate security measures when it comes to credit card ordering.
A further Leno moment is here:

Font size theirs, arrow mine. I kid you not.

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