In Search of Funding for Post-Secondary Prison Programs — FPI Scholarships

By George Hook

Again, I did not want to blow the whistle.  I just wanted to search for funding available to federal prisoners for post-secondary education courses.  While searching for post-secondary programs I also came upon this statement made by the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) in Bridges to Opportunity–Federal Adult Education Programs For the 21st Century Report to the President on Executive Order 13445, U.S. Department of Education Office of Vocational and Adult Education, dated July 2008  as the only example of funding, at p.18:

“ProgramNationwide.  Federal Prison Industries (FPI) is a self-sustaining government corporation that awards scholarships for postsecondary study to selected, qualified inmates working in FPI factories. FPI allocates a portion of revenues generated from the sale of its products and services to federal agencies for the FPI scholarship program. Eligible inmates working at prison factories can take postsecondary or occupational training courses with accredited colleges, universities or technical schools.  Federal inmates are not eligible to receive Pell grants to fund postsecondary studies. The FPI scholarship program allows federal inmates the opportunity to take postsecondary or occupational training courses in order to acquire skills, degrees, or certificates that will enhance their post-release employability.

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UNICOR: Government and Private Contracts

By Christopher Zoukis (

Federal Prison Industries, known as UNICOR to most, is the for-hire prison labor arm of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Inside the prisons UNICOR is known as the best employment that one can hope to obtain. This is because they pay the best wages; $0.23 to $1.15 an hour plus $0.20 an hour for premium consideration when it is warranted; basically slave wages. Yet, slave wages paid for hours and hours of work in prison makes you a big spender. This just goes to show what the rest of the prison population gets paid; $5.25 a month at a minimum. Outside the prisons, UNICOR is known as the private industry’s darling. After all, where inside the United States can you find a factory staffed by persons who are willing to work for less than a quarter an hour? Seems illegal, doesn’t it?

UNICOR was first started with the hope of providing viable employment skills to the incarcerated population. They started with two main ideas: One, an occupied prisoner is easier to manage than one that is idle. Two, that they could provide manufacturing services to government cheaply under the guise of providing employment skills to their workers. One of the chief tenets here was that UNICOR would not interfere with the private industry.

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FCI Petersburg’s UNICOR Announces Scholarship Program

By Christopher Zoukis

For the past several years I have been seeking information on the UNICOR Scholarship Program offered at FCI Petersburg.  And for years I, and other UNICOR workers, have received a cold shoulder from FCI Petersburg UNICOR staff.  They have refused to provide information concerning how to apply for the scholarship program, what the program consists of, the requirements thereof, and where to find additional information concerning it.

Up until today, I’ve only been able to locate two sources of limited information concerning the program: 1) an inmate who is in the program, but was unwilling to supply myself with any sort of documentation concerning it and 2) referrals to it — and program directions — which can be located in Federal Bureau of Prisons’ national policy.  Essentially I, and the vast majority of other inmates at FCI Petersburg, have been stonewalled by UNICOR staff which resulted in the vast majority of UNICOR inmates not being able to apply for this scholarship program.  Today that changed.

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