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Outsourcing Unit To Be Set Up In Indian Jail 249

littlekorea writes "Indian outsourcing firm Radiant Info Systems has found yet another way to lower wages — hiring data entry clerks from a local prison. Some 200 inmates will be paid $2.20 a day to handle manual data entry tasks for Radiant's BPO deals in a pilot for the scheme. Radiant execs told the BBC that the deal will provide skills to inmates when they are released from prison. No doubt they would also be due for a pay raise." They're going to need to cut wages if they want to be competitive with the 100,000 US prisoners who work for 25 cents an hour.


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Outsourcing Unit To Be Set Up In Indian Jail

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  • Competitive... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 13, 2010 @10:15AM (#32192908)

    $.25 an hour x 8 hours a day=$2 a day

    Seems fairly competitive to me...

  • sensitive data? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wiplash ( 787883 ) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @10:18AM (#32192948)
    I would imagine a certain degree of integrity is required to handle third-party data. While it may not be a fair assumption, it is possible that some people involved with such a program may not be the most reliable of people...
    Are they going to be careful about what kind of data they would be sharing with these inmates? Are there going to be restrictions in place to stop them from copying this data?
    Will they be genuinely interested in what the weather is like where I am?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sohp ( 22984 )

      RTFA: banking information. What could possibly go wrong?

      • RTFA: banking information. What could possibly go wrong?

        I dunno ... maybe they enter a "." instead of a "," (or visa versa depending on whether they're entering US or European numeric data).

        Waaaaaaait a minute ... what if it was one of them who screwed up the data that caused the dip in the US stock market last week?

    • Everything could be cut into bits that on their own are meaningless. Punching in an address by ID# rather than name.

      Not that I think they'd bother doing it right. I'm just saying it could be possible. Also, not all data entry is really sensitive data.
  • by droopus ( 33472 ) * on Thursday May 13, 2010 @10:18AM (#32192952)

    I just came home from a lovely four year stay at a fed prison. Yes, you can eventually make $.25 an hour, but you have to work up to that.

    See federal (BOP) pay scales [justice.gov] here.

    FPI (UNICOR [unicor.gov]) is the prison industries. Read: slave labor for government profit. At the facility I was at there was a data processing factory, fixing bad OCR scans by entering Postscript commands.

    However, anyone with any computer skills was forbidden from working there, so my job was Captain's Crew...cleaning the sidealks for half hour every day. Nice use of my MCSE, no?

    • by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @10:22AM (#32193016) Homepage

      Prison. Where they teach you that honest hard labour gets you next to nothing.

    • So how many times in that 4 years did you hear the "federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison" joke?
      • by droopus ( 33472 ) * on Thursday May 13, 2010 @10:47AM (#32193342)

        Only from people who actually believe what they see on TV. Prison can be very violent, but that stupid "don't bend over for the soap" stuff doesn't happen. In fact, even suggesting it is a good way to get shanked.

        CSI, Law and Order, Prison Break, etc are utter propaganda.

        • by martas ( 1439879 )
          well, to be fair, it sounds like you were at a white collar prison... i don't think maximum security is that nice (at least no hdtv, i'd expect).
        • I imagine it is pretty variable by the prison and security level.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Itninja ( 937614 )
      So how many times in that 4 years did you have to pay for rent, food, clothes, medical care, dental care, etc.? I think if you take all that into account, it far exceeds minimum wage. A good friend of mine spent 10 years in prison and commented shortly after his release that his standard of living was higher while inside.
    • by sharkey ( 16670 ) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @11:20AM (#32193774)

      Nice use of my MCSE, no?

      Perhaps they had sufficient skill and experience on-staff to handle any Solitaire and Minesweeper issues that came up.

    • Nice use of my MCSE, no?

      Maybe you should have kept your nose clean and OUT OF FEDERAK PRISON? Mmmm?

  • Safe (Score:4, Funny)

    by courteaudotbiz ( 1191083 ) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @10:18AM (#32192954) Homepage
    Your data will be VERY safe when you hand it to those prisoners...
    • by camg188 ( 932324 )
      The article says they will be processing banking data.
      -what a great idea-
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Skapare ( 16644 )

      Exactly! ... as long as each prisoner has one of those PHBs overlooking them at all times, just like in the picture.

  • by Jeremiah Cornelius ( 137 ) * on Thursday May 13, 2010 @10:19AM (#32192968) Homepage Journal

    And India, Too! We can't leave a slave-gap open, with the Reds in China!

    My Dear God. The world is back into nightmares decried by Dickens and Sinclair Lewis. If you haven't read these, I would suggest doing so. In fact, if you have, a refresh is in order.

    • And yet if prisoners were denied opportunities to work, you and your kind would be up front and center decrying the waste of manpower in prison, as well as the lack of job retraining skills for otherwise idle hands. Isn't this why we have call centers in prisons nowadays instead of chain gangs breaking rocks into gravel?
      • No.

        Then, I would be still be free to decry the creation of "laws" to criminalize a significant percentage of the population, while creating private profit incentives for incarceration - and the requisite prioritization of public monies for penitentiary over school house.

        I have Dickens, you have Rand. You lose.

    • by WrongSizeGlass ( 838941 ) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @10:47AM (#32193330)
      Raj: Hi, this is Raj. Thank you for calling Bank of Regret. How may I help you?
      Customer: I see some irregular activity on my account and I'd like to talk to someone about it.
      Raj: I apologize for the inconvenience. Am I correct to understand that you would like to talk to someone about the irregular activity on your account?
      Customer: Um, yes. Yes I would. That's what I said.
      Raj: Am I correct to understand that that is what you said?
      Customer: Yes! Just get someone who can explain these large wire transfers!
      Raj (hand over the receiver): Who handles large wire transfers?
      Dani: I do!
      Raj: One moment please. I'll transfer you to Dani. He handles large wire transfers ...
    • by panda ( 10044 )

      Back? The world never left, my friend.

  • scary thought (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Paul Rose ( 771894 ) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @10:20AM (#32192984)
    Radiant: we're a little short on staff -- think you could raise the penalty for jaywalking?
    Congressman: can do!
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by notommy ( 1793412 )

      In India what we would consider jaywalking is known as "crossing the street". So no, your nightmare scenario would never happen. Otherwise everyone would be in jail.

    • Re:scary thought (Score:5, Informative)

      by TheRon6 ( 929989 ) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @10:35AM (#32193178)

      Radiant: we're a little short on staff -- think you could raise the penalty for jaywalking?

      Congressman: can do!

      This exact sort of thing is already happening in the U.S. except rather than keeping people in prison to make them work, the prison lobby wants to keep people in prison for the sake of needing to build more prisons. We've got both the prisons' investors and prison guard unions [talkleft.com] constantly lobbying for harsher punishments for lesser offenses. It's a scary to think that it's profitable for anyone to lock people up and throw away the key...

      • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) *
        It's a very profitable growth industry--right up until the point where everyone is either in prison or working at one (causing the government to go bankrupt and ending the gravy train).
    • Re:scary thought (Score:5, Interesting)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @10:36AM (#32193192) Journal
      Not really a joke. Post civil war, that's basically what they did to get the newly emancipated back in their place, where possible. All sorts of crimes ("vagrancy") and the like, heavy enforcement against the undesirables, and then lease the resulting convicts out as cheap slave labor to various upstanding local businesses.

      All perfectly legal and above board.

      These days, of course, we have the private, for-profit prison, a truly brilliant institution. The outfits that run these are very reliable "law-and-order" lobbyists, and there was even a case a while back where they were paying a judge a per-inmate kickback for, shall we say, "referrals"...
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by E-Arkham ( 1634361 )
      We might already be doing that in the states.

      I drove through South Carolina recently and noticed signs that stated the penalty for speeding in a work zone was $200 and 30 days [ghsa.org]. On the surface, you might think that's reasonable to keep road workers safe.

      But there are long stretches of highway marked as work zones with NO sign of workers, equipment, or construction. Nothing. And state law says workers do not need to be present. These were for all intents and purposes speed zones where getting caught g

  • I understand their desire to remain relevant and competitive in the out-sourcing marketplace, but dang man, enough is enough.

    Seriously. This will probably sound racist as hell, but whatever, I don't care. I'm sick to death of calling into some company for support and struggling mightily to understand the person on the other end. Sick of it. It does not do these companies any good at all to have such unpleasant customer service experiences.

    I realize that English is not these folks primary language, and for it being ESL for them, they do a good job. But when I call in for support to a company "based in the US", damnit, I expect to hear a US voice.

    Again, call me racist, whatever you want. I really don't give a shit at this point, I'm frigging sick of it. For companies that outsource to these places to "lower costs", you're also lowering profit, due to craptastic customer service, lack of caring, and a strict adherence to "following the script".

    • by Ephemeriis ( 315124 ) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @10:35AM (#32193176)

      I'm sick to death of calling into some company for support and struggling mightily to understand the person on the other end.

      I realize that English is not these folks primary language, and for it being ESL for them, they do a good job. But when I call in for support to a company "based in the US", damnit, I expect to hear a US voice.

      Except that a "US voice" doesn't necessarily help.

      I've called technical support lines and gotten someone with an impossibly thick southern drawl before. At least that's what I assume it was. Maybe they were drunk. Regardless, it was clear that they were from the southern US, but I couldn't understand half of what they were saying.

      Why is a clear speaking voice not a requirement for these positions?

      I don't care where you're located geographically, as long as you can speak clearly.

      • by nomadic ( 141991 )
        I would not be surprised if that "impossibly thick southern drawl" was coming from a Bangalore-based operator poorly trained in mimicking American accents.
      • by Macrat ( 638047 )


        I've called technical support lines and gotten someone with an impossibly thick southern drawl before. At least that's what I assume it was. Maybe they were drunk.%

    • by sdpuppy ( 898535 )
      Then next time buy the product from another company.

      and be sure to write a letter to the offending company the reason that you will not do repeat business with them.

    • by Ltap ( 1572175 )
      Language doesn't matter. I understand your issues, but it's a lack of emotional investment in their job and a lack of knowledge that's worse than language barriers. English or not, someone who is being paid minimum wage to work the telephones won't want to do too much work to help you.
    • For companies that outsource to these places to "lower costs", you're also lowering profit, due to craptastic customer service, lack of caring, and a strict adherence to "following the script".

      Do you have the numbers to back that up?

      I suspect that the truth is that it actually DOES increase profit, in most cases. So what if customers are pissed off? What are they going to do, switch over to another service provider that also sends customer support offshore? The truth, I believe, is that lots of people m

      • by tekrat ( 242117 )

        Then why bother with customer service at all?

        Or have the entire thing automated.

        When you call Verizon now, to tell them you have no dial-tone (using my cell phone to tell them my landline is down), you're shuttled through a completely automated system that even "checks your line" for you. Whether it actually does *anything* or not for real isn't the issue, but it gives the illusion of customer service.

        eBay, for example has NO customer service, and yet, they are the largest company in their category, proof t

  • It's even worse: I'll wager (a pack of cigarettes, presumably, in the old days) that about $2.50 will buy more in an Indian prison commissary than in an American---although it _is_ a captive (ahem) audience, and the staff know how much the inmates generally earn, so I can see prices rising to meet that. But: are Indian prisons such that you have to pay extra to get anything close to decent to eat? I'm afraid of base-levels of food that might make Nutriloaf look good.
  • by Ltap ( 1572175 ) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @10:28AM (#32193092) Homepage
    Seems to paint the picture of a very Dickensian universe, the one exception of debtor's prison. Step 1: Inmates work for free/cheap Step 2: People with regular jobs lose those jobs Step 3: People go to debtor's prison, have to work for free/cheap Step 4: Permanent lower-class The only exception is that, now, there's even more of a stigma towards people who have spent time in jail, and it's easier for employers to find out.
    • by astar ( 203020 )

      I RTFA on prison work and I read the high mod posts. Yours is the only one I saw that mentioned in some way depressed US living standards as a result of the prison labor. This slave labor stuff was getting a revival in the 1970's and some unions would try to raise a fuss. And in the 1970's, SEUI was a reformist union! The general point is that if you do not have some basic principles you really pay attention to, and a lot of guts, you end up toast. You just lose and lose until nothing is left. This

  • US Prisons (Score:3, Informative)

    by FozE_Bear ( 1093167 ) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @10:29AM (#32193100)
    I thought that some American Catalog companies were running call-centers with inmates as well in the mid '90's. Is this really new?
  • Let's see $2.20 a day * 260 days a year (although I doubt they give them too many days off)
    = $572 bucks a year

    Let's plug it in The Global Rich list....
    http://www.globalrichlist.com/ [globalrichlist.com]

    = 4,429,714,286
    You are the 4,429,714,286 richest person in the world!
    You're in the TOP 73.82% richest people in the world!

  • Now the outsourcers will be giving our confidential banking account data to people in prison who have access to computers. Am I the only person who sees something wrong here?
  • It isn't often that you see an article where the British and US usages of "scheme" are BOTH correct.

  • by Ubiquitous Bubba ( 691161 ) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @11:21AM (#32193794)
    Wait a minute. My cubicle feels like a cell. My wardrobe is defined by Corporate Goons. At the whim of a bureaucrat, I can be sent, against my will, anywhere in the country. Many time's, I've been awakened in the middle of the night by alarms and screaming. (Usually, the voices are saying things like, "The servers are down!" or "My Email is gone!") Have I been in prison all along? That would explain some of the meetings... Well, no more! There's no cage that can hold me! I'm bustin' outta here. Here's the plan. Just after the morning scrum meeting, you throw a paper airplane to distract the guard. I'll slip under the raised floor. I've got a plastic spoon from the break room, so I'll dig a tunnel. If we do this every day for the next 40 - 50 years, we'll make it out!
  • Slave labor, just like the good old USofA!

  • So we have some prisoners and we want them to get some skills for when they leave prison.

    Make them work?

    Great idea!

    Doing data entry?

    Ok, I guess since they'll be low paid.

    For banks?

    Wait a second... For banks? So we'll have prisoners handling massive amounts of banking data?!!! Something tells me this won't end well. For the banking customers, that is. It might end very well for the prisoners (some side cash "earned") and Radiant (cut costs means bonuses for management).

  • There's absolutely no chance that convicted criminals would misuse data... I'd trust them completely with my credit card numbers!
  • The outsourcing centre will handle banking information 24 hours a day using a shift system

    So, let me get this straight. They're knowingly, willfully giving my banking information to known, convicted criminals for processing... This can only end well.

  • Yes, industry programs in some prison systems in the US pay as little as $0.25/hour for labor, but there's a bigger factor going against the possibility of insourcing here: many prison systems limit inmate access to computers, to keep them from getting access to porn, general outside communications, and contact with victims or witnesses.
  • Once the entire prison system is privatized, those "high wage" jobs will disappear as prisons become the 21st Century plantations. At that point, someone in Silicon Valley will have developed a way to automate prisoners' jobs, and the private prison system will go bankrupt. We will need to bail them out for fear that they go out of business and release all their 'customers.'

Where there's a will, there's an Inheritance Tax.