Catriona Wallace, director of the Australian website Callcentres.net visited a Singapore women's prison last year, a prison that does some call center outsourcing with the help of a company called Connect Centre.
As frequent readers of this blog know, prison call centers are a subject of particular fascination for us, so we read Wallace's account on her website's blog eagerly:"We were security checked and escorted by armed wardens to a call centre with greater than 50 seats which was totally behind bars and running on a smart technology platform supplied by a local Singaporean IT company, Innovax. The centre is an outsourced centre, established as part of a program to assist in the rehabilitation of inmates. We interviewed several agents working there and were totally impressed with their professionalism and dedication to the call centre job they had and to the industry. The call centre work is treated by inmates as a privilege and there is a very rigorous interview process for inmates to become agents."
What's interesting to me about this center is that unlike the typical American prison center, the focus is on inmate rehabilitation, not on cheap labor. When we've tried to interview UNICOR about their U.S. federal prison call center outsourcing program, we've been given the cold shoulder. As near as we can tell, it's because the companies that have contracts with UNICOR don't want their names associated with the taboo of prison labor.
To be sure, cheap labor is a big benefit, but what if UNICOR and some of its clients actually touted their prison workers? The former inmates I've spoken to have said that the work they did during their sentences was time well-spent -- it gave them purpose, pride, and (a rather small amount of) money. It also gave them valuable work experience that helped them reconnect with the world once they were released.
"It was great to see the contact centre industry being able to make a social contribution and all credit to the managers from Connect Centre who were also exceptional in their vision and dedication to this centre and its people," wrote Wallace in her blog.
A smart, public service-driven marketing campaign could turn a company's secret shame into a PR dream while helping turn convicts into tax-paying citizens again.
Posted by Harry Sheff on Thursday, January 4, 2007 at 12:15 PM
Female prisoners work in call center behind bars in Singapore