Prisons

Businesses Out-Competed by Captive Labor

Government firm that uses low-paid prisoners has first dibs on federal contracts

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Just hearing the word Unicor is enough to make Kurt Wilson see red.

Unicor is a government-run enterprise that employs over 13,000 inmates—at wages as low as 23 cents an hour—to make goods for the Pentagon and other federal agencies.

With some exceptions, Unicor gets first dibs on federal contracts over private companies as long as its bid is comparable in price, quantity and delivery. In other words: If Unicor wants a contract, it gets it.

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