In New York, Some State Call-Center Employees Are Behind Bars

New York DMV call center employees inmatesWhen it comes to employing prisoners, making license plates or performing roadside cleanup typically come to mind as the kind of jobs given to those behind bars. In New York state, however, a select group of inmates are taking on a different role: over-the-phone customer service representatives for the Department of Motor Vehicles.

In this era of state-budget shortfalls that have resulted in layoffs of government employees, the decision to employ inmates in call-center jobs that could be done by those outside is raising ire.

The call centers, located at two prisons in the state, are expected to take about 1 million calls a year and save taxpayers about $3.5 million a year, according to DMV estimates.

"Obviously, it saves taxpayer dollars," Brian Fischer, the commissioner of corrections and community supervision, tells WNYT-TV. "Number two, it provides what we call a transferable skill."

State officials note that inmates receive extensive training and that the personal information of callers isn't shared, YNN reports. Conversations can also be monitored by civilians.

The call centers are situated within the Greene Correctional Facility upstate and the Bedford Hills women's prison in the Hudson Valley.

The call center positions are some of the most coveted jobs inside the prison, officials say. Not because of the pay -- the pay is the standard prison wage of 46 cents to $1.14 an hour -- but for other reasons.

"A lot of times we need to feel like we are appreciated and it builds self-esteem," inmate John Howard tells WNYT. "It allows me the opportunity to speak to different people of different nationalities, regardless of what ethnicity and it makes me feel like, 'Wow, I can do better.' "

Though the program provides prisoners with much-needed skills that can help inmates make a smoother transition to civilian life, others see a downside.

Danny Donohue, president of the union that represents state workers, says employing prisoners to do jobs that law-abiding citizens can do is "a bad idea," especially in light of the current economy and high unemployment.

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I happen to be appying for such a position right now. You can't do the job w/o seeing personal information. This is a well paid position w/benefits in Texas. I agree that they need something to do, but why can't it be working on the roads, laying concrete, etc., That's a transferrable skill as well. It boils down to that saving 3.5 million a year.....hang the folks that have abided by the law looking for the good jobs out there. That's the climate of business today.

January 14 2012 at 12:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
hi bev

So these people has access to who knows what??????????????? Are you people totally mental giving them these jobs

January 13 2012 at 7:57 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

There is no way they can hold this job and not have access to personal information.
Name , .address, .car registration,.height, weight, gender, hair color,.birth data, marital status.
With all that at their finger tips....what can't they find out???
State officials are just plain liars, and are putting people at risk.

January 13 2012 at 7:36 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

The good new is the inmates are unquestionably more honest than the politicians now controlling New York.

January 13 2012 at 7:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

So do they get shipped to India when released?
To do the work they were trained for?

January 13 2012 at 7:11 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

OK, well that explains it! How are you going to get any help from a Customer Service Rep. who has to ask permission to go to the bathroom?

January 13 2012 at 7:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Now just hold on a minute. The jobs the inmates are doing used to be done by law-abiding citizens but they were cut due to budget constraints. Part of the rationale is that these workers will be trained but what job will they get when they get out? The job they've been trained for is done by the prisons they just left so there will not be work for them when they get out, lol. Toss that rationale out.

I'd rather that they let/make welfare recipients take over those jobs instead of convicts, those are the people who need job training.

January 13 2012 at 7:01 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

New York!!!! What a great idea! Hopefully, Massachusetts might follow suit, but don't hold your breath

January 13 2012 at 6:58 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

How can they say personal information isnt shared. You have to give them your name and address most likely and drivers license number? What about all those isnt personal?

January 13 2012 at 6:56 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

Not a bad idea. Maybe California should try the same. Especially with their DMV. The worst ever. Inmates would improve the service a lot.

January 13 2012 at 6:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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