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You are here News Economy Low wages at private prisons siphoning jobs from private businesses

Low wages at private prisons siphoning jobs from private businesses

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UnicorOn the outside, Unicor, with its big oaks and magnolia trees, looks like it could be part of a landscaped industrial park. Step a little closer and it's clear the apparel shop lies in the middle of a medium-security federal prison in east Alabama.

The factory and those like it that employ convicted felons are at the heart of a simmering debate about whether prisons should be siphoning away jobs - at much lower wages - that could be filled by those who need them during the nation's toughest period of unemployment in decades.

Congressional Republicans, a handful of Democrats and private-industry critics want to clamp down on Unicor - the trade name of Federal Prison Industries.

Almost 13,000 inmates working in federal lockups around the country for a few dollars a day make everything from military uniforms to office furniture to electrical parts that are sold exclusively to federal agencies. With annual revenues that reached $900 million last year, Unicor is the federal government's 36th-largest vendor.

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