Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Chained to their desks
April 9, 2011 6:57 PM   Subscribe

Indian prison authorities in Hyderabad have opened up a call centre inside the jail with hopes of servicing customers from the UK.
posted by reenum (43 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
It was just a matter of time.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:01 PM on April 9, 2011


At least if you lose your temper with them they can't come get you.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:04 PM on April 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Unholy conflict of intereset, Batman.
posted by smcameron at 7:04 PM on April 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I'm probably not going to want to give my financial info to prisoners. Shank you for your business and all that.
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:12 PM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Genius! Everything I've heard about call centers is that it's like a prison anyway. Except for they have problems with people quitting.
posted by ctmf at 7:18 PM on April 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


One of the inmates in training is RS Ratnababu, a 53-year-old former bank assistant manager sentenced to six years in jail for "misappropriation" of 30,000 rupees (£450).

what
posted by crapmatic at 7:23 PM on April 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think (hope) that there are rules which prevent businesses in the UK (and probably the whole EU) from utilizing prison labor, particularly if it breaches certain standards and/or pay.

Although, some quick googling suggests that we're not quite there yet, unfortunately.
posted by Jehan at 7:33 PM on April 9, 2011


This bodes well. "I see your house insurance doesn't cover fire, would be a shame if anything happened..."
posted by arcticseal at 7:34 PM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Don't let Joe Arpaio hear about this. He might get ideas.
posted by briank at 7:35 PM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lots of prisoners in the US do all sorts of labor, and many of them don't have access to what could be considered skilled technical training like this. It is kind of weird, but if seen a bit objectively it's not that different from other forms of prison labor. The inmates seem to prefer it to tilling broken earth with rusty shovels or something.

Still, they should've just renovated the meditation center this will be housed in and encourage inmates to mediate instead of play phone script talk.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:40 PM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Krays would have loved this.
posted by clavdivs at 7:43 PM on April 9, 2011


Burhanistan, *all* prison labor involves a massive conflict of interest. It essentially turns those running the prison into slaveowners. "Gee, should we parole this guy? I dunno, we have that big contract with BigCo, and we need all the slaves we can get. So... no."

Prison labor is bad news, even if the prisoners like it.
posted by smcameron at 7:49 PM on April 9, 2011 [14 favorites]


I think (hope) that there are rules which prevent businesses in the UK (and probably the whole EU) from utilizing prison labor, particularly if it breaches certain standards and/or pay.

On review of further information, I understand that the UK government has no morals and will gladly exploit its own prisoners as much as possible, nevermind those of another country.
posted by Jehan at 7:50 PM on April 9, 2011


This already exists in the US.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:54 PM on April 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yes call centers manned by prisoners already exist in the U.S. and I think it is extremely stupid to have prisoners doing this sort of job. It is dangerous. Prisoners in for scams will only get better at scamming people. I also think it could cause more violence in prisons. I never felt so violently inclined as I did working in a call center. You get it from the bosses and the customers. Someone will go out a window or get shanked, not good at all.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:46 PM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Isn't most office furniture in the US made with prison labor?
posted by ryanrs at 8:52 PM on April 9, 2011


Lots of prisoners in the US do all sorts of labor, and many of them don't have access to what could be considered skilled technical training like this. It is kind of weird, but if seen a bit objectively it's not that different from other forms of prison labor. The inmates seem to prefer it to tilling broken earth with rusty shovels or something.

The problem with this is simple and frightening. This country operates in tiers called classes. In other words, housekeepers don't have business degrees or any IT training, unless of course they did something bad and went to jail, and are now out and have to start over. Since we live in a world of 1's and 0's now, the classes have somewhat up-shifted, in that the guy who used to work at a tool and die company is now working at a Direct T.V. call center and his old job was either mechanized or is now being done by an immigrant. Now stick with me here. Prisons cost the government a lot of money to run. The cost benefit data shows that states can save up to 15 million dollars annually under shared systems. This is very attractive to states obviously. And these companies know how to get it done. GEO Group has been practically throwing money at Republican politicians who can assure them of a larger presence in their respective state, thereby guaranteeing more revenue. We already know that American corporations have no loyalty to their citizens when it comes to keeping jobs here. I'm sure it's the same in the UK. So, what's gonna stop Direct T.V. from striking up a deal with GEO Group to pay pennies on the dollar for low to mid level criminals to staff a call center? The light bill is paid, no insurance costs, no wages, bonuses, collective bargaining. None of that nonsense. I used to be a blue collar worker. I got into IT just 10 years ago. Trained properly, a lot of people could do what I do, including the majority of incarcerated men and women in this country. So I'll stop there, before this gets too tin hat-ish. Not a good trend for middle class workers to observe occuring.
posted by venbear3 at 9:10 PM on April 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Mother Jones article from 2000
posted by venbear3 at 9:24 PM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Isn't most office furniture in the US made with prison labor?
posted by ryanrs

I heard that somewhere.

I love those Steelcase trucks.
posted by clavdivs at 10:00 PM on April 9, 2011


Hooray for slave labor.

oh wait.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:10 PM on April 9, 2011


The 15 rupees per day that inmates get for welding work is equivalent to 34 US cents.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:19 PM on April 9, 2011


The North Carolina Travel and Tourism Call Center is staffed by inmates at the North Carolina Correctional Institute for Women in Raleigh. So, when you call for help planning your romantic getaway to Outer Banks, you'll likely be talking to someone who can't get away at all.
posted by amyms at 10:59 PM on April 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


One of the things that is so messed up about the 21st century, is that when the Soviets opened up forced labour camps in places like Siberia the public didn't approve and the label "Evil Empire" was fairly easy to hang on them in most of the so-called western liberal democracies.

Do it now and you get widely applauded for cost-cutting techniques and competetive advantages while politicans in the former democracies-turned-Gulag-work-states talk about how we should be like them in order to maintain competetive advantage.
posted by Deep Dish at 11:01 PM on April 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


They do multimedia design work using jailed inmates in Singapore. It's a roaring success for everyone involved; once they get out, the once inmates often continue to work in the same firm, albeit in their posh offices downtown. The kind of work they do isnt high end work; it's the sort that school kids on their summer breaks would do in an internship. The prisoner is rehabilitated, there's some extra dough for everyone, there are happy clients. Win, win, win.

In short, don't see the problem. Prisons elsewhere don't have the problems that American ones have.
posted by the cydonian at 11:26 PM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


This didn't work out so well on Law and Order.
posted by stevil at 12:02 AM on April 10, 2011


Do it now and you get widely applauded for cost-cutting techniques and competetive advantages while politicans in the former democracies-turned-Gulag-work-states talk about how we should be like them in order to maintain competetive advantage.

Marx said this was the end game of capitalism, didn't he?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:16 AM on April 10, 2011


If you're in an Indian jail, and somebody shivs you, they become the shiv-er, right? And once you've been shiv-ed you go "oh god!" and they say "yes". Pretty blasphemous, guys.
posted by tumid dahlia at 1:10 AM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Obligatory - QI on the new American slave trade
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:34 AM on April 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


What kind of customer service will they do? I'm open minded, but still doesn't seem like a great idea to give my CC details to convicts on the other side of the world.

The Daily Mail's gonna love this.
posted by Not Supplied at 2:01 AM on April 10, 2011


The Federal Trade Commission comments on the anti-competitive use of inmate laborers
posted by clarknova at 2:40 AM on April 10, 2011


when the Soviets opened up forced labour camps in places like Siberia the public didn't approve and the label "Evil Empire" was fairly easy to hang on them in most of the so-called western liberal democracies.


Just goes to show you that the dispute between "Capitalism" and "Communism" was really one of form rather than content.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:31 AM on April 10, 2011


i.e., How do you like your exploitation? I like mine with a side of fries.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:32 AM on April 10, 2011


Fellow MeFites,

You have this all wrong. The use of inmates as call center reps in India isn't either enterprise or slave labor. It is a means to an end. That end is punishment. In order to work effectively in a call center, a rep must familiarise him/herself with all manner of irrelevant trivia about soap stars, football results, the weather in Burnley, Dorking or Ipswich.

That's the punishment.

The poor sods have to sit through hours of Eastenders and Coronation St watching some pillock or other gurn to camera as his wife runs off with the pub landlord, his house burns down, his long lost brother turns up in a taxi and an airplane crashes nearby.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:47 AM on April 10, 2011


What's the pro-prison-labor argument? I found this: Prison Labor by Robert D. Atkinson (PDF).

It makes two key assertions that I thought were reasonable:
  • Creating more goods and services in the economy doesn't steal jobs from other people - it creates them (but it does move them around a bit).
  • It's good for prisoners - they are more likely to find employment and less likely to reoffend when they get out (and are safer in the work environment than elsewhere in the prison...)

    I'm happy to accept these at face value.

    But it's still wrong. Now, it might be self-interest speaking - both as a worker and a business operator who might, who knows, be competed against. But, I hope, my belief that it is wrong is more fundamental than that.

    People on MetaFilter are key to leap in and compare normal employment to slavery, and I fundamentally disagree with that position. But this, prison labor, this looks just like slavery to me. And that's abhorrent, and lousy policy, and against modern Western civilisation (yes, yes, as it should be, not as it sometimes is).

    I don't know. I don't mind about the economic cost of banning the sale of the products of prison labor. But what about helping the prisoners? Do we have some crazy kind of pseudo-Keynesian system where prisoners work to make items that we just destroy, so we don't encourage the corruption and distortion resulting from prison labour? Well, if necessary, but we can surely distinguish "training and education" from "long shifts to produce many of the same items." And it has to be voluntary or we're not encouraging personal responsibility and agency.

    (Of course, we're starting at the wrong end, and need to put fewer people into prison so we can afford to spend more on each one and try to help them turn themselves around.)

  • posted by alasdair at 5:13 AM on April 10, 2011


    Not a good trend for middle class workers to observe occurring.

    The correct libertarian response to them would be "No one is stopping you from breaking the law and going to jail so you can compete with them for jobs."
    posted by Thorzdad at 5:22 AM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


    I'm not going to overthink this one, but make a rule of simply hanging up on all cold callers, just on the off chance that they might be prison labour.
    posted by UbuRoivas at 6:01 AM on April 10, 2011


    Hooray for slave labor.

    oh wait.


    I've been living in North Carolina for 11 years now but it still gives me pause to drive by inmates working on the side of the road overseen by armed guards, rifles at the ready, especially when it happens all the inmates are black and the guards are white. I did see my first female guard the other day.
    posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:13 AM on April 10, 2011


    "Good morning ma'am, I am named John, I am calling from California with very important news about a real est -- oh yes, California, it should say California on your caller ID; oh it says Florida? Yes ma'am, I guess I am in Florida, beautiful weather we are having -- I am calling with good, good news about a real estate oppor -- yes ma'am I said Florida; yes, I am John, only one syllable; no, please, I just would like to finish -- this opportunity for real estate success -- no please, please don't ask to speak to the manager, don't you understand? Yes this call is monitored -- no, it is just John from, uh, Florida it was, yes? I want to tell you about real estate. My manager, of course I didn't say warden, this is Florida!"

    A red light goes on, a man in white walks over and slowly takes the headset from inmate #3411021, and addresses the assembled inmates and guards:

    "What we've got here is... failure to communicate!"
    posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 7:18 AM on April 10, 2011


    we can surely distinguish "training and education" from "long shifts to produce many of the same items." And it has to be voluntary or we're not encouraging personal responsibility and agency.

    They are part of the standards I expected to be upheld. So long as it's voluntary, useful (to some extent) to the prisoner's reformation and reasonably paid (even if they have to contribute to the cost of their imprisonment) then it's much less problematic. But prison labor seems to run the gamut from slavery to reformation making it difficult to be for and against it in general.
    posted by Jehan at 7:30 AM on April 10, 2011


    I think they'll need to update NBC's Outsourced now. Instead of the American guy running the Indian call center he suddenly gets appointed the prison warden, too, to save space in his building.
    posted by willhopkins at 10:28 AM on April 10, 2011


    Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
    posted by liza at 2:11 PM on April 10, 2011


    I would class having to learn irrelevant trivia about football results as a plus, MuffinMan.
    posted by Put the kettle on at 3:17 PM on April 10, 2011


    The Forbes article Mr. Penguin linked to was interesting. Setting aside the article's comical enthusiasm for prison labor, I can definitely see how having a few thousand dollars of savings and a job waiting for you can dramatically reduce recidivism.
    posted by ryanrs at 4:38 PM on April 10, 2011


    « Older Writers and Kitties...  |  YouTube user deb4tlj has uploa... Newer »


    This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments