UNICOR: Government and Private Contracts

By Christopher Zoukis (

Federal Prison Industries, known as UNICOR to most, is the for-hire prison labor arm of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Inside the prisons UNICOR is known as the best employment that one can hope to obtain. This is because they pay the best wages; $0.23 to $1.15 an hour plus $0.20 an hour for premium consideration when it is warranted; basically slave wages. Yet, slave wages paid for hours and hours of work in prison makes you a big spender. This just goes to show what the rest of the prison population gets paid; $5.25 a month at a minimum. Outside the prisons, UNICOR is known as the private industry’s darling. After all, where inside the United States can you find a factory staffed by persons who are willing to work for less than a quarter an hour? Seems illegal, doesn’t it?

UNICOR was first started with the hope of providing viable employment skills to the incarcerated population. They started with two main ideas: One, an occupied prisoner is easier to manage than one that is idle. Two, that they could provide manufacturing services to government cheaply under the guise of providing employment skills to their workers. One of the chief tenets here was that UNICOR would not interfere with the private industry.

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