(UNICOR) – What You Need to Know
Also known by its trade name of UNICOR, FPI is a wholly owned subsidiary of the U.S. government and runs factories and service centers at many federal prisons. In 2011, UNICOR had eighty-eight factories employing 14,200 inmates across dozens of prisons (see the full list below) and had sales of $745 million. Factories are involved in producing office furniture, electronics, plastics, clothing, textiles, industrial products, and more. Some of the services provided by UNICOR workers include call-center solutions, printing and bindery, and data and document conversion. By law, all products and services produced by UNICOR can only be sold to federal departments, agencies, government institutions, and their authorized contractors or representatives.
For many inmates, working in a factory or service center is usually preferred to working a standard institutional job since it provides a chance to gain actual marketable job skills and earn significantly more money. FPI work assignments pay from $.23 to $1.35 per hour, which is good money in prison. As with standard institution jobs, a high school diploma or GED certificate is required for all UNICOR work assignments above the lowest pay level. Despite being the subject of continued controversy with claims of slave labor and unfair business practices by its detractors (it’s hard to compete with a company that pays its workers a maximum of $1.35 an hour), as far as the inmate experience is concerned, UNICOR is clearly a saving grace. Inmates enjoy a meaningful job and the chance to earn a new skill. Indeed, those inmates assigned to UNICOR are 24 percent less likely to end up back in prison than those inmates who work in standard institution jobs.
If this kind of job appeals to you, and the institution you are at offers UNICOR, make sure to speak with your Unit Manager as soon as possible after arriving. Due to its extreme popularity and limited positions, expect to be on a waiting list for at least two years.