5 Jan 2007

Singapore's Prison Call Center

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

Related Article
Female prisoners work in call center behind bars in Singapore


Matilah_Singapura said...

I reckon its a good thing.

Having a job is a good thing. Most of the folks in jail didn't have jobs because the chose not to, and instead turned to a life of crime.

And it is not "cheap" labour — the inmates are cared for 24/7/365 by the state, and they are kept under heavy expensive, security. It costs tens of thousands a year to keep someone in jail.

Sure its about rehabilitation. It gets the inmates to learn skills — communication skills for example, take responsibilty, create some "self-worth" fro themselves (to counter the self loathing), and encourages them to be productive, peaceful individuals in society, as indicated by one of the former inmates who was interviewed for the article.

Anonymous said...

are you being sarcastic?

Matilah_Singapura said...

No. Why do you think that? I'm just curious, I don't really care ;)

Anonymous said...

Yes they need to work after their release.Welfare is a dirty word in Singapore.

Matilah_Singapura said...

And so it should be, in this context.

If a person can find the wherewithal to commit crime, then it's fair to assume that they are capable of holding down a job, and living as a peaceful and productive member of society. No welfare needed in these cases.

Also, these are women. Getting new marketable skills in jail, could be the very thing which saves thier lives, and at least gives them a frame of reference to be independent.

There is no "honour" in living off the charity of others.

Sure, problem solving is hard. Resources are always finite at any given time. We all have to struggle and solve our problems. And darn it, the vast majority of us do OK, without "welfare" of any sort.