Preparing inmates for successful reentry through job training.

Inmates working at a UNICOR factory

Federal Prison Industries (commonly referred to as FPI or by its trade name UNICOR) is a wholly owned, Government corporation established by Congress on June 23, 1934. Its mission is to employ and provide job skills training to the greatest practicable number of inmates confined within the Federal Bureau of Prisons; contribute to the safety and security of our Nationís Federal correctional facilities by keeping inmates constructively occupied; produce market-priced quality goods and services for sale to the Federal Government; operate in a self-sustaining manner; and minimize FPIís impact on private business and labor.

Approximately 16% of work-eligible inmates work in FPI factories. They gain marketable job skills while working in factory operations, such as metals, furniture, electronics, textiles, and graphic arts. FPI work assignments pay from 23Ę to $1.15 per hour. A high school diploma or General Educational Development (GED) certificate is required for all work assignments above entry level (lowest pay level) in either institution or FPI jobs.

The Inmate Financial Responsibility Program (IFRP) requires inmates to make payments from their earnings to satisfy court-ordered fines, victim restitution, child support, and other monetary judgments. Some inmates are assessed a Cost of Incarceration Fee, which is collected under the IFRP. Inmates working in FPI who have financial obligations must pay 50% of their earnings to the IFRP. Most fine and restitution money goes to crime victims or victim support groups through the Crime Victims Fund administered by the Office for Victims of Crime in the Department of Justice.

A Business or Correctional Program?

FPI is, first and foremost, a correctional program. The impetus behind FPI is not about business, but rather it is about inmate release preparation ... helping offenders acquire the skills necessary to successfully make that transition from prison to law-abiding, contributing members of society. The production of items and provision of services are merely by-products of those efforts.

Research has shown that inmates who participate in the FPI program are less likely to revert to criminal behavior and more likely to be gainfully employed following release from prison. The Post-Release Employment Project (PREP) compared inmates who worked in prison industries with similar inmates who did not participate in the FPI program. PREP found that inmates who worked in FPI were significantly less likely to recidivate than inmates who did not participate, for as much as 12 years following release. Inmates who participate in FPI were also less likely to engage in prison misconduct. In addition, minority groups that are at the greatest risk for recidivism benefitted more from industrial work participation and vocational training than their non-minority counterparts.

Who are the Customers?

By statute, FPI is restricted to selling its products to the Federal Government. Its principal customer is the Department of Defense, from which FPI derives approximately 53% of its sales. Other key customers include the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Transportation, the Treasury, Agriculture, and Veterans Affairs; the General Services Administration, Social Security Administration, U.S. Postal Service, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

For more on UNICOR, please visit www.unicor.gov.