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back to article Ever get the impression a telesales op was being held prisoner?

Have you ever had the impression that a telesales operator on the phone to you was actually being held prisoner against their will? Well, next time they might very well be because the unlucky inmates of HM Prison Grampian, Peterhead, are about to be put to work in a custom-built call centre. The new prison replaces two old …

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Not a bad idea actually

You are sent to prison AS punishment, not FOR punishment. Prisons should attempt to rehabilitate and give people who went off the rails better options for when they're released. Will it work for all cons? Of course not. Will it work for some cons? Absolutely.

And call centre work is a realistic reflection of the kinds of jobs we have in Britain now. Give people the skills and opportunities and for some it will make the difference between going back to crime and getting back into society which is wins all round.

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Really bad idea actually...

I see you're trying to help and do recognise that many, if not most, prisoners are not exactly skilled and that giving them any skill is surely a step in the right direction.

But call centre work? It sounds ideal for con men who are by their very nature excellent salesmen - but not really for anyone else.

Are they going to handle credit card info? Are they going to handle personal details? That sounds like a recipe for a disaster.

Your violent type crim got there mainly because he (mostly, seldom she) has a really short fuse and anger management issues. Dealing with frustrated customers just does not sound like a good career choice.

What's wrong with the old lag trades such as labouring (digging ditches) and gardening?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Really bad idea actually...

What's wrong with the old lag trades such as labouring (digging ditches) and gardening?

Because most of the working area for that is presently flooded? Ah, got it: filling & lugging sand bags, THAT would be useful. As long as you keep them out of the proerties & search them afterwards, of course, but it also lowers the risk of absconding, even if they're good swimmers :)

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Re: Really bad idea actually...

Clearly some people suit different types of work better than others. No matter how much training you give me as a bricklayer you'll get a wonky wall. Train me as a chef and you'll get burnt water. Stick me in front of a big pile of data and I'll slap it into shape. Some people may be great on the phone and just not know it, so not even realise they have options in the legit world. Make them lay blocks and they'll go back to do something else - maybe back to crime. Offer them a route out, and some may take it.

Prisoners are not all murderers and con men. Even if they were, they're clearly not going to give people guilty of credit card fraud jobs handling credit cards. They may provide Tier 1 support from scripts and logging bugs/issues, they may generate sales leads for other centres, they may be getting feedback on marketing campaigns. I'm sure the jobs will be sensibly chosen and trainees the more suited to it.

Not all prisoners want to be lifetime criminals, not all will be suited to trench digging, why not play to their natural abilities?

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Re: Really bad idea actually...

"But call centre work? It sounds ideal for con men who are by their very nature excellent salesmen - but not really for anyone else."

The nature of the work sounds like outbound sales calls. That has two sides - first the cons won't be handling personal data because they will not need to verify an identity (which initially seems positive), but the downside is that this is just outbound calls. How do you respond to (often unsolicited, or possibly solicited but at the wrong time) sales calls? If they are overseas I play around to waste their time and amuse myself, but if they sound UK based I just put the phone down. I would suggest that random phone calls to strangers who are rude or just put the phone down is not exactly a recipe for showing the world of employment in a good light to people who you want to rejoin the straight and narrow.

But the real problem this scheme has is that the released inmates still have the unspent conviction hanging round their neck like an albatross. If you go down for a sentence of more than two and a half years your conviction is NEVER spent, and even for less than six months the conviction is unspent for seven years. Whilst there may be a slight matter of a gap on the CV anyway, to have to reveal that they have unspent criminal convictions to prospective employers is a near certain means of ensuring they will not get any form of white collar employment, unless NACRO are the people recruiting.

The principle of spent/unspent convictions could have some relevance, but the vast scope and the punitive "rehabilitation period" (when the sentence is unspent) are modern day forms of branding. The curious thing is that the criminal injustice system seems immune to this - they won't lock up the various "one punch" killers for more than a couple of years, yet for those who go to prison for a few weeks for a *relatively* inocuous offence the system works to ensure they have very little chance of a decent mainstream job, ever (because after seven years of being unemployable or doing no-questions-asked manual labour you'd never get a mainstream salaried job).

This scheme intends to furnish released prisoners with potentially useful skills. But until it is far easier to re-integrate ex offenders into paid employment then they will continue to be kicked out of prison with no job, no prospects, possibly nowhere to live, and stand every chance of sliding back to the behaviours that got them into clink in the first place, despite a few months of telesales training.

Re-reading this it's all very bleeding heart and liberal. Personally I'd like the death penalty to be available for certain criminals, and I'd like inmates to have to break rocks for eighteen hour days (with their teeth), the unfortunate thing is that neither approach has been shown to be effective or cheap, and we need solutions that actually work.

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Facepalm

Not a good idea actually ..

@Cliff: "call centre work is a realistic reflection of the kinds of jobs we have in Britain now"

Privatised war, privatised prisons, privatised hospitals .. the ghost of Thatcher is abroad ...

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Re: Not a bad idea actually

If they yelled at the customer what'd the manager (jailer) do? Increase the term?

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Re: Not a bad idea actually

Solo,

If they yelled at the customer what'd the manager (jailer) do? Increase the term?

Sack them. Working on something in the prison that you get paid for, is something some prisioners want to do They can use the cash to buy stuff. Also it looks good when the parole hearing comes up, if you've been working at a skill that might lead to a job when you're out. The opposite is also true, if you've been chucked off a rehabilitation program, parole may not be as soon as allowed.

Prison rehab programs are mostly under-funded and over-subscribed. Prisoners are trying to get on them, and don't want to get chucked off. Some for the cynical reason that they want to impress a parole board, some because they want the cash, some because they're bored and some because they genuinely want to get rehabilitated. And probably some for all of the above...

Many prisoners do try to get back on track. Re-offending rates aren't just made up of career criminals who can't change. Some people get let out with no skills, nowhere to live, broken family ties and just fall back into crime. It's worth making serious effort to help people turn their lives around, because many will. And that saves a lot of grief for both them, and society overall.

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Facepalm

Re: Not a bad idea actually

Seriously?

You think the mindless tedium and low pay of call centre work is going to encourage drug dealers, burglars, car thieves, etc, to go on the straight and narrow.

I can hear it now. "If this is what honest work is like, they can stick it where the sun don't shine" (or words to that effect).

At best its going to make their current "career" seem more attractive. At worst its going to encourage them to set up their own call centre based scam.

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Re: Really bad idea actually...

Another bright idea brought to use by the USA...

Anybody read Daniel Suarez Daemon?

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Re: Really bad idea actually...

And what happens to all those call center jobs in the "real world", once the companies operating them realise they can get the call center run at a fraction of the price by outsourcing it to the prison?

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Re: Not a bad idea actually

Strangely enough, a lot of people in prison aren't looking at a thrilling and fulfilling career ahead of them. As a group, they tend to be worse educated than average - and are obviously going to be struggling to make up a nice CV and references. Given they're currently in prison. So the options aren't great.

But the alternative is a life of crime. Which probaobly pays even worse, has even less in the way of prospects, and tends to land you with time in prison. Some people are willing to work far worse jobs than call centres in order to try and get back to a normal life. It is in their interests, and society's, that we should try and help them to do so.

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Re: Not a bad idea actually

"You think the mindless tedium and low pay of call centre work is going to encourage drug dealers, burglars, car thieves, etc, to go on the straight and narrow."

I think you misunderstand. The proposed training facility is really only there to offer experience to those who want it, and want to avoid returning to a life of crime. It isn't an advert for honest toil. And much as some people round here look down on call centres, the reality is that for the sort of people in clink, a call centre might be their first experience of regular salaried employment and the world of work.

What is your better solution to the problem of ex-cons leaving prison without useful skills?

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Re: Not a bad idea actually

"At best its going to make their current "career" seem more attractive. At worst its going to encourage them to set up their own call centre based scam."

My very first thought reading this.

My second was that this is a job suited to sociopaths who could enjoy annoying people by repeatedly phoning about insurance claims for accidents/PPI claims etc. that they didn't have.

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Re: Really bad idea actually...

"if they sound UK based I just put the phone down"

My favourite response is to say (in my best BBC accent):-

"I'm terribly sorry old chap, but I don't speak a word of English. Good day." - THEN put the phone down.

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Joke

Re: Really bad idea actually...

> daemon

Ah, the IT angle.

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Unhappy

Re: Really bad idea actually...

"But call centre work? It sounds ideal for con men who are by their very nature excellent salesmen - but not really for anyone else.

Are they going to handle credit card info? Are they going to handle personal details? That sounds like a recipe for a disaster."

Already done in the US.

Welcome to the prison-industrial complex.

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Re: Really bad idea actually...

Welcome to the prison-industrial complex.

Indeed. Angela Davis pointed out what was wrong with turning prisons into indentured-servitude camps 40 years ago. Of course, since prisoners and former prisoners are neither a powerful nor a sympathetic constituency, the moneyed classes went right on and did it anyway. Doesn't make it ethical, though.

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"Prepare them for a better life"

I think I'd punch a guard and get banged up for another 3 years rather than do call centre work.

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Re: "Prepare them for a better life"

"I think I'd punch a guard and get banged up for another 3 years rather than do call centre work."

Indeed, I thought there were laws against cruel and unusual punishments?

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FAIL

call center work?

You mean a job where they get to ask for personal information, like address, mothers' maiden name, telephone number (sorry, caller ID will provide that), income, work schedule, etc.

Who's kidding whom?

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Re: call center work?

"call center work? You mean a job where they get to ask for personal information, like address, mothers' maiden name, telephone number (sorry, caller ID will provide that), income, work schedule, etc. Who's kidding whom?"

You seem to be labouring under the belief that anyone jailed for an offence is particularly more likely to be a fraudster than anyone else.

I think that's a bit of an assumption. Especially as white collar criminals and fraudsters seldom get banged up. I suspect that statistically, one is MORE likely to run into such a character in normal life than in prison.

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Re: call center work?

They don't have to be a fraudster themselves, they just have to know a fraudster through the prison network who is willing to trade them contraband for personal data.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: call center work?@ theodore

"You mean a job where they get to ask for personal information, ....Who's kidding whom?"

You need to re-read the article. In outbound telesales there's no personal information to verify other than that the person at the other end of the phone is a competent adult who might buy whatever you're selling. The only detail the convict might have access to is the phone number name and address, all of which are readily available as public information.

And it's "call centre", BTW.

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Where I work...

..the telesales team has to make a minimum of 200 calls per day with a target of 5 appointments for the reps.

Perhaps HM Prison Grampian, Peterhead is a better option for these poor souls who dredge through online directory services all day in their quest to call and sell someone something they probably don't want anyway..

On a less serious note, the HM Prison telesales program could be a good foundation for ex inmates to find work in Mumbai once released..

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One of the dangers of the prison system has always been that the newbies to the system fall in with some of the harder cases and learn antisocial ways. This would appear to accelerate the process and not require the hard cases.

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Quite. Call centre is experience is hardly likely to reform someone.

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...surely only for the worst crimes.

Cruel and unusual punishment?

I think I'd choose a life of crime over call-centre work. Better hours, better pay...and I'm not even sure what the karma quotient is between wasting peoples time and selling people stuff they don't want, or simply robbing them.

I have serious doubts that any person (nevermind those of a criminal bent) could spend more than a few hours working in a call centre and think anything other than - lets get the f*ck out of here

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Riverdance

The headline reminded me of a recurring bit on Prairie Home Companion about young Irish lads and lasses held prisoner in a moving van who are trucked around the country and forced to perform Riverdance at dinner theatres.

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If the printer cartridge company can sell cheaper products this way (using coerced labour) then we as the consumer wins.

Printer consumables are too expensive so a price saving is welcome by me.

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Joke

Bloody prisoners, coming over here and taking our call centre jobs.

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That's not actually a joke.

People who are so desperate for work that they will take a call centre job will get the push because the forced labour from prisons is cheaper.

And any other job they try for has been taken by forced labour on Workfare.

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"If the printer cartridge company can sell cheaper products this way (using coerced labour) then we as the consumer wins."

So rather than the cartridge seller take a hit by reducing the cost of ink to less than the cost of gold, per gram, it would be better to employ slaves?

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"...the "telephone marketing centre" will prepare convicts for a better life."

By stripping them of any last remaing thread of a will to live? Yeah, that's gonna work.

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It's a great way of getting the "work doesn't pay" message across

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Maybe it's to break them fully before re-programming? You've got to break a few eggs to make an omelet, or something?

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There is an italian prison where they make chocolate.

It's chocolate behind bars if you will.

A call centre in a prison and not a single cell phone reference?

Simon

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But ... but ... but ... jobs

In this country there are not enough jobs to go round. Any 'unfilled' jobs are looking for skills that don't exist or are unrealistic in there expectations. (i.e. school-leaver IT positions with a list of required skills as long as your arm). Even the lowliest jobs get a huge number of applicants. The only vacencies that exist are the ones no-one can afford to pay for any more. (i.e. road maintenance, IT support staff, flood prevention engineers ). There are no jobs that prisoners could do that does not involve taking it away from someone else. The same goes for the unemployed (get 'em to sweep the streets etc. What would then happen to the street sweepers?)

Call centres are already in existence and employ people who have not committed crimes (or at least not been caught). By giving work to prisoners they are taking it from non-prisoners, what are current call centre employees supposed to do except sign on. Some may be enticed into a life of crime. Can nobody else see the flaw in this plan.

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Re: But ... but ... but ... jobs

"In this country there are not enough jobs to go round. "

So they say. Strange how hundreds of thousands of economic refugees from southern and eastern Europe make their weary way here to the land of no jobs. Strange how the number of people in employment is close to the highest ever. Strange how round my way bus and truck companies are all advertising for drivers, shops for staff, and agencies for workers. Strange how UK companies, having generally not laid staff off during the recession have now started the strongest permanent hiring drive for four or five years. Strange how Robert Walters profits are up 30% due to the buoyant recruitment market. Strange how the NHS is still reliant on foreign recruitment.

UK unemployment is currently around 7.2%. Even in Germany's booming economy unemployment is over 5%, which is about what economists would consider near transactional levels, and looking at work-or-starve regions like Hong Kong the numbers are in the 3.5-4% range. Realistically we could get unemployment down to around 4%, but only if we stop immigration and EU migrants, and we REQUIRE the unemployed to move or commute where the work is. What do you think the chances of any of those are?

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Re: But ... but ... but ... jobs

Is it perhaps possible that some of those (especially NHS) jobs require some sort of previous training, as in a 3 year degree? If you did not happen to choose the right subject when you were 16, you don't really get to go back and have another crack at it, do you?

I think the main issue is that since there are so many unemployed degree level types around, lots of job that in no way require one in reality, do require one on paper. Even my job, an electronic engineer, would be better served with on the job training and day release for the theory. Better than a nice shiny piece of paper that in no way tells you if I can do the job. Plenty of technicians I work with would make excellent engineers, but they can't go up a peg until they spend 3 years unpaid, or 5 years part-time. Not many can afford to do that. People from a previous generation have no degree, and yet are 10 times better than me at engineering (my boss, for example). Vocational jobs should have vocational training, basically.

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Happy

Re: But ... but ... but ... jobs

I didn't even get a proper GCSE in IT at school and never studied IT at uni or 6th form. Before getting into the IT industry I was working in a call centre (not a prison one mind but you couldn't tell...) and decided that if I wanted to change careers then I was the one who had to make the change. Consequently I studied my A+, passed that and while studying that applied for all and sundry IT jobs. I then had to take a pay cut but within 6 months I was earning more than in the call centre even with commission.

I didn't make this choice until I was into my 30's so I guess the point I'm trying to make is that you can make a change, however, you have to be prepared to start from the bottom and work your way up.

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Re: But ... but ... but ... jobs

>but only if we stop immigration and EU migrants

Monday Britain stops eu workers from entering Britain

Tuesday France puts a $10,000 fee on each British truck leaving the Chunnel,

Wednesday Germany puts a $10,000 import levy on each car made in Sunderland

Thrusday Britain closes down

>, and we REQUIRE the unemployed to move or commute where the work is.

Good news unemployed yoof in Middlesborough, we have a cleaning job for you in London, it's minimum wage and zero hour contract. You don't mind commuting do you?

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Trollface

A whole new sport

Presumably the calls the lags make will actually be monitored, or at least more so than those from the overseas sweatshops, then if we provoke the cold-calling-nuisances into fits of rage, will they get extra porridge?

There's only one way to find out...

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Rehabilitation my arse.

Just look at the for-profit system in the USA. When prisoners make you money then it becomes a wise investment to lobby for harsher sentencing while doing bugger all to rehabilitate, ensuring the highest rate of incarceration and reoffending i.e. repeat business.

*ker-ching!* Thank you, come again!

Compare to Norway.

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Re: Rehabilitation my arse.

And as mentioned above somewhere, as soon as companies have a tax-payer funded workforce available to them for pennies an hour, they go for it like vultures eying a dead pig, resulting in layoffs and higher unemployment. And then, to be sure people are steered in the "right" direction, make sure there is no unemployment benefits available to them, and no funding for job training or anything else that might help the unemployed survive until better times without robbing grannies of their pensions or stealing food.

Yup! It's a trap!

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Joke

Interestingly, I always thought

telemarketeers calling me deserved a prison sentence

Apparently, some already have got one

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Big Brother

SSDD

It's not about rehabilitation. That's just a sales job on what is in reality the same deal corporations have been getting on slave labor from China or any 3rd world country. Only difference is that they are trying that model here in the western world. Same Stuff Different Day...

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Vocational training?

The prison service has always offered work and training as a means of improving the lot of prisoners when they get out. Nowadays the Ministry of Justice says vocational training is typically in engineering, plastics, printing, tailoring, footwear, woodwork, etc. In the past it majored on the building trades. The trouble is call centre *work* in prison is not particularly brilliant training for a future career. Banks and financial institutions are unlikely employers. Many other firms will have rules / stigma about employing ex-prisoners. The capabilities prisoners develop will be the softer skills that are more difficult to evidence in an interview. There are probably good jobs that could be given to prisoners but surely modern day call centre slavery is not one of them?

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Re: Vocational training?

re :- "There are probably good jobs that could be given to prisoners but surely modern day call centre slavery is not one of them?"

Those weird colonials don't think that, (which is probably where the idea came from) :-

http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/01/12/10140493-inside-the-secret-industry-of-inmate-staffed-call-centers

http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-prison-industry-in-the-united-states-big-business-or-a-new-form-of-slavery/8289

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Anonymous Coward

Training

Before my illustrious career in IT started I served a jail term (5 years) and during my time inside they offered a lot of vocational training

- Manual Handling

- SSE (Scotish and Southern Electrics) working with powerlines

- Carpentry

- Bricklaying

But one of the strangest things was they were running the Cisco CCNA course as well, and in regards to employment afterwards if you completed these you got a letter from the governor basically saying you were rehabilitated and were now a respectable citizen.

I only chanced it once and until the point I declared my time inside the interview was going well, now i just dont chance it I just dont declare

Now Anonymous for obvious reasons

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