Federal Prison Industries/UNICOR
Federal Prison Industries (FPI), also known as UNICOR, is a government-owned corporation that employs federal prisoners to manufacture products and perform services to fulfill contracts that are sold to executive agencies and departments across the federal government. Examples of these products and services include: military equipment, clothing and textiles, office furniture, electronics, fleet and industrial products, recycling services, call centers, and help desk support. Federal Prison Industries operates 83 factories in federal prisons across the country with sales totaling approximately $472 million in the last year alone.
Under the current system, if FPI wants a contract from the federal government, it gets it. More often than not FPI is given a contract, not because other companies do not produce the product or service requested, but because it receives preferential treatment when it provides services to the federal government. This process takes jobs away from hardworking men and women that are currently employed by the private sector, has a negative impact on economic growth, and does not guarantee the highest quality product or best use of taxpayer dollars.
To remedy this, in March of 2015, Congressman Huizenga introduced H.R. 1699, a comprehensive and bipartisan approach to reforming FPI known as the Federal Prison Industries Competition in Contracting Act. This legislation eliminates FPI's no-bid contract status, allowing small businesses to compete with this government-owned goliath. With millions of Americans out of work and small businesses manufacturing still struggling to keep the lights on in many areas across the country, it makes no sense for the federal government to be using prison labor to limit our nation's job creators from bidding on contracts. This bill ensures the federal government's priority is to preserve market access for small businesses and create jobs for hardworking men and women. Additionally, H.R. 1699 requires FPI to submit a detailed analysis of the impact to the private sector before entering into new product markets and would prevent FPI from selling products commercially or internationally where the only customer could be the federal government.
In March of 2016, Congressman Huizenga introduced a more targeted approach to reforming FPI called The Small Business Protection Act of 2016. Specifically, this legislation addresses four key issues: