Federal Prison Industries

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Federal Prison Industries, Inc.
Company typeState-owned enterprise
IndustryPenal labor
FoundedJune 23, 1934; 89 years ago (1934-06-23)[1]
Key people
David D. Spears, Chairman
Donald R. Elliott, Vice Chairman[2]
Revenue$531,453,000 (2019)
$61,166,000[3] (2019)
OwnerFederal Bureau of Prisons
Number of employees
10,896 (2016)

Federal Prison Industries, Inc. (FPI), doing business as UNICOR (stylized as unicor) since 1977, is a wholly owned United States government corporation created in 1934 as a prison labor program for inmates within the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and a component of the Department of Justice. It is headquartered in Washington, D.C.

Under US federal law, all physically abled inmates who are not a security risk or have a health exception are required to work, either for UNICOR or at some other prison job.[4][5] As of 2021, inmates earned between $0.23 to $1.15 per hour.[6]

As a "mandatory source" for federal departments (having priority over all other sources, including JWOD sources from blind or severely disabled persons), FPI receives priority in any purchases of the products that it offers.[7]


A statute in May 1930 provided for the employment of prisoners,[8] the creation of a corporation for the purpose was authorized by a statute in June 1934,[9] and the Federal Prison Industries was created by executive order in December 1934 by Franklin D. Roosevelt.[10]


Under current law, all physically able inmates who are not a security risk or have a health exception are required to work, either for UNICOR or at some other prison job.[4][5] Inmates earn from US$0.23 per hour up to a maximum of US$1.15 per hour,[6] and all inmates with court-ordered financial obligations must use at least 50% of this UNICOR income to satisfy those debts.[4]

Deductions are then taken for taxes, victim restitution, program costs and court-imposed legal obligations.[4] In fiscal year 2016, FPI's business were organized, managed, and internally reported as six operation segments based upon products and services. These segments are Agribusiness, Clothing and Textiles, Electronics, Office Furniture, Recycling, and Services.

Prisoners sit at sewing machines, sewing military uniforms
Prison labor in a UNICOR program producing uniforms.

UNICOR currently produces the Interceptor body armor vest, primarily for foreign sales and international customers.[11][12][13]


One report[14] detailed an FPI operation at a California prison in which inmates de-manufactured computer cathode-type monitors. Industry standard practice for this mandates a mechanical crushing machine to minimize danger from flying glass, with an isolated air system to avoid releasing lead, barium, and phosphor compounds to the workplace atmosphere. At the FPI facility prisoners de-manufactured CRTs with hammers. FPI initiated corrective action to address this finding, and claims to currently meet or exceed industry standards in its recycling operations.[15]

Combat helmets produced by FPI at one factory were at the center of a US Department of Justice lawsuit and $3 million settlement paid by ArmorSource, the prime contractor. The U.S. Attorney's Offices declined to criminally prosecute or file any civil action against FPI staff.[16] The helmets were produced for ArmorSource between 2008 and 2009 and failed to meet standards.[17] The recall of both helmets cost FPI $19 million. With Defense Contract Management Agency audit staff, FPI identified opportunities to improve its Quality Management System in areas including improved management staff oversight, proper control of quality procedures, training, and implementation of corrective action. FPI implemented new procedures to address these areas.[18]

After the January 6 United States Capitol attack, multiple sources noted because FPI is a "mandatory source" for the federal government, it would receive priority when the federal government purchases products made by FPI such as office furniture to replace what was damaged in the riot.[19][7][20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "UNICOR - FAQs: General". Unicor.gov. Archived from the original on 2 May 2022. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  2. ^ "UNICOR - Board of Directors". Unicor.gov. Archived from the original on 14 September 2022. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  3. ^ "FEDERAL PRISON INDUSTRIES, INC. : Fiscal Year 2019 Annual Management Report" (PDF). Unicor.gov. Retrieved 30 January 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d Federal Prison Industries RL32380 (PDF), Congressional Research Service, July 13, 2007
  5. ^ a b Title XXIX, §2905 of the Crime Control Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-647) required that all offenders in federal prisons must work (the act permitted limitations to this rule on security and health-related grounds).
  6. ^ a b "BOP: UNICOR". www.bop.gov. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  7. ^ a b Kim, Whizy. "White Supremacists Attacked The Capitol. Now, Prison Labor Will Clean Up The Mess". www.refinery29.com. Retrieved 2021-01-23.
  8. ^ Pub. L.Tooltip Public Law (United States) 71–271, 46 Stat. 391, enacted May 27, 1930
  9. ^ Pub. L.Tooltip Public Law (United States) 73–461, 48 Stat. 1211, enacted June 23, 1934
  10. ^ Executive Order 6917 of 11 December 1934
  11. ^ GovTribe. "Department of the Army W91CRB08D0045-0015 To Unicor $42.5k". govtribe.com.
  12. ^ GovTribe. "Department of the Army W91CRB08D0045 To Unicor $265.8m". govtribe.com.
  13. ^ Award of Interceptor OTVs federalcompass.com, 29-Sept-2008
  14. ^ "A Review of Federal Prison Industries Electronic-Waste Recycling Program" (PDF). US Department of Justice. US Department of Justice. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 June 2016. Retrieved 22 September 2016.
  15. ^ "A Review of Federal Prison Industries Electronic-Waste Recycling Program, Attachments 4 and 5, pages 421-426" (PDF). US Department of Justice. US Department of Justice. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 June 2016. Retrieved 22 September 2016.
  16. ^ "DEFENSE CONTRACTOR ARMORSOURCE LLC AGREES TO PAY $3 MILLION TO SETTLE FALSE CLAIMS ACT ALLEGATIONS, page 7" (PDF). US Department of Justice. US Department of Justice. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  17. ^ "Investigative Summary Findings of Fraud and Other Irregularities Related to the Manufacture and Sale of Combat Helmets by the Federal Prison Industries and ArmorSource, LLC, to the Department of Defense, page 2" (PDF). US Department of Justice. US Department of Justice. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  18. ^ Steele, Tom (30 August 2016). "Inmates at Texas prison produced faulty helmets for military, costing government $19M". Dallas Morning News. Retrieved 22 September 2016.
  19. ^ Valentine, Brittany (2021-01-11). "Prison labor is what will rebuild the U.S. Capitol after its siege". AL DÍA News. Retrieved 2021-01-23.
  20. ^ "The Furniture Damaged in the Capitol Riot Will Almost Certainly Be Rebuilt By Incarcerated People For Pennies". Jezebel. 8 January 2021. Retrieved 2021-01-23.

External links[edit]

Media related to Federal Prison Industries at Wikimedia Commons