This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Red Shirt Relationships
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  The Herman Trend Alert

December 11, 2002

Another Source of Skilled Labor

Savvy employers are always looking for good sources of labor. They need people who have skills (or can learn them), want to work, will be productive, and will do quality work. Emerging economic conditions will stimulate growth, creating more jobs and more competition in the employment marketplace. Cost- and productivity- conscious employers will look for alternatives, sending jobs to countries where people will work for less, but still get the job done. International outsourcing can be difficult, expensive, and often a challenge to manage.

Those jobs can be kept at home; they don't need to be sent overseas. An alternative labor force is waiting-eagerly, yet patiently-for an opportunity to work, and for low wages. More employers will be hiring prison inmates- people incarcerated in state and federal prisons-to work for them, while still in prison. This approach allows jobs to be kept at home and, at the same time, provide support that allows other jobs to continue, protected from going overseas.

In the United States, 1.3 million men and women are housed in prisons. Experts estimate that about half of them could be described as the stereotypical hardened criminals. The other half is different: educated--- with high school diplomas or equivalents, and many with college degrees. Over 500,000 people comprise this labor force, eager to work.

Many inmates are already employed in light manufacturing, assembly, back office, and service jobs. Employers report that this workforce is high quality and "more productive" than a comparable alternative domestic workforce. Cost is 20-50 percent lower--certainly an option to sending work- and compensation-overseas. Sometimes total labor savings are far greater. For more information, we refer you to http://www.theepi.com. This website, maintained by The Enterprise Prison Institute, will provide significant facts and figures. Or you may call the organization's office in the suburbs of Washington, D. C., at (301) 320-9180.

Our international readers may believe, at first, that this opportunity is limited to American employers. Our research shows that the practice of using inmate labor is active in a number of countries, notably in Scandinavia. Other countries are considering utilizing this labor force.


Comments from our readers:

Everything you wrote about prison labor is true - in fact, there are some celebrated telecommuting applications in prisons too (and as I tell conference audiences, another benefit of using inmates is that absenteeism is NO PROBLEM.)

However, the unions, and employers employing union workers and small businesses employing even non-union workers, have been railing against promotion of inmate labor for years, especially as it relates to bids on govt. business. The small biz folks say, correctly, that they are being unfairly underbid and that the govt. is thus squeezing small biz out of biz....

Gil Gordon
Author of Turn It Off! Gil Gordon Associates


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