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Thursday, June 13, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

A Natural Resource

Yes, there is such a thing as a Unicor.

Sorry. Couldn't resist.

That's not a typo - I'm not talking about unicorns. Unicor, if you don't already know (and I certainly didn't until just before writing this), is the trade name for something called Federal Prison Industries, Inc.

I'm not sure why it's called Unicor, but it's probably because it's easier to sell products made by Unicor than by Federal Prison Industries, Inc.

I bring this up because in these dire economic times, we have to come up with new ways of healing the economy. Unicor could be one of our greatest resources and, as far as I can tell, it's being horribly underutilized.

We've got about 1.5 million prisoners who could be making things to solve our balance-of-trade problems and, apparently, only a tiny fraction are being used to make profitable items.

We need to use the skills and energy of all these people who, you've got to admit, don't have a lot else to do at the moment. Why pour billions into infrastructure projects when you can get all the workers you need for free?

The best part of this is that prisoners often have very special skills that private industry just can't duplicate.

Consider Bernard Madoff.

OK, he's not in prison yet (i.e. not yet a government employee), but there's a reasonable chance he will be. Should all that brainpower and experience go to waste?

Picture Bernie Madoff negotiating trade agreements with countries who have a surplus of cash.

Or consider prison gangs.

They're well-organized, loyal and ready to fight.

Send some gangs over to the Middle East, put them in an enclosed area, and wait for them to attack each other.

All those warring factions will look at what happens and realize their battles are ridiculous. Think of it as Scared Straight Goes Global.

Or consider con-persons.

Does it make sense to outsource customer service phone representation to other countries when we have perfectly good con-people in prison who could do the job better? All they have to do is be charming, tell customers what they want to hear, and then fail to deliver anything.

They're perfectly suited.

Or consider all those people in jail just because they couldn't resist taking drugs.

Obviously, they're weak-willed, so send them out to spend money to stimulate the economy.

Our prison population could get us out of this recession in no time.

Write your president-elect.

FULL EMPLOYMENT. While we're on the topic of economic stimulation and putting people to work, consider the following from a U. S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruling called Morelli v. Webster:

"The site of the proposed performance - room 203 - had been outfitted with audio and video surveillance equipment. The output was to be transmitted surreptitiously to a so-called 'observation room' next door. A local prosecutor and several police officers had congregated in the observation room."

Yes, that's one prosecutor and several officers just to observe one exotic dancer in Portland, Maine. If there'd been two dancers, the police station would have been empty.

This is a town that knows how to keep people busy.

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