Inmates are required to get jobs while in prison. They are paid various and competitive wages just as if they are in the real world. The only difference is that the wages are significantly lower, so when a good job goes out of business, it’s a lot more detrimental to inmates.
One business in particular that was already shut down before I arrived was UNICOR. UNICOR was a department where inmates built chairs, household furniture, and office furniture for other companies. The furniture was sold in department stores in and outside the US. However, I heard the furniture of UNICOR was poorly built. Several inmates, most likely the lowest paid inmates, used too many shortcuts when building the furniture. There experienced a high amount of returns, which cut into the company’s profits. I’ve also heard rumors that the COs didn’t have proper bookkeeping skills and were terrible when managing the inmates. Due to the errors, there wasn’t enough to fund the department. UNICOR was also closed inside the FCI as well.
A lot of inmates didn’t like that UNICOR was closed. The company paid some of the best wages in the camp. The top inmate workers made well over a dollar per hour. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but in prison camp, good money is when an inmate made more than $40 a month. At UNICOR, inmates made upwards of a hundred dollars a month or more.
The furniture the inmates made where used within the prison and the camp. I remember all the Power House desk and chairs were created from inmates working at Unicor. However, I have no way of knowing if the respected department had to pay to get those furniture or chairs.
When I arrived at prison camp, the department used for UNICOR was used as a storage area for supplies from the Power House and GM6. In fact, I would get ten to fifteen ten-pound bags of salt from that storage area to apply to the hard water at the Power House. Just before I transferred to the halfway house, the part of the building used for UNICOR was no longer accessible to inmates. We never received a reason as to why.
I’ve heard many express their disappointment when UNICOR closed. It’s just like when a business in the outside world closes; there are lost jobs, wages, and financial hardship. Inmates suffer economic depression just as those in the outside suffer. It’s truly a double penalty for the inmate.