Your Call Center Helper Might Be an Inmate

Prisoners often staff centers in private and public sector
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 12, 2012 4:43 PM CST
Your Call Center Helper Might Be an Inmate
File photo: Inmates frequently man the phones at call centers through a government program.   (Shutterstock)

Talk to any prison inmates lately? The answer might be yes if you've called a call center for help or to register a complaint. MSNBC profiles a little-known but long-running federal program called Unicor under which inmates staff call centers in both the public and private sector. One example: New Yorkers who call the DMV might well be chatting with an inmate from the Greene Correctional Institution or the Bedford Hills prison for women.

The program also works with the business world. In Arizona, for example, the state prison system partners with a company that provides marketing services for companies such as Microsoft and Hitachi. Unicor made about $10 million in the first six months of fiscal 2011, and all the money goes back into the program. Advocates say it gives inmates job skills and makes them less likely to return to prison. (More inmates stories.)

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