Authorities at the Cherlapally Central Jail, a 2,100-bed facility near Hyderabad, the capital of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, announced in May 2010 that they will open an outsourcing unit. [See: PLN, July 2010, p.32].
The program will be privately run by Bangalore-based Radiant Info Systems and employ 210 prisoners in three round-the-clock shifts of 70 workers each. It will specialize in back-office work such as data entry and information processing for banks and insurance companies. The prisoners will be paid between 100 and 150 rupees ($2.20 to $3.32) a day, which is much higher than the 15 rupees per day paid to prisoners with more conventional jobs such as manufacturing furniture.
According to Radiant director C. Narayanacharyulu, the jail was chosen due to its unusually high percentage (40%) of educated prisoners. Only 2,000 of the 13,000 prisoners in Andhra Pradesh jails are listed as well-educated. Education is important for the jobs in the outsourcing unit because they involve the use of sophisticated electronic information technology. Software company Tata Consultancy Services is providing equipment for the program.
“We have identified the area in the jail where the unit will come up. It will have computers as well as connectivity,” said C. N. Gopinatha Reddy, Andhra Pradesh’s State Director General of Prisons and Correctional Services. “The idea is to ensure a good future for the educated convicts after they come out of jail.”
The business process outsourcing (BPO) program will initially concentrate on the Indian market to avoid potential controversy from having prisoners do international work. If successful, the program may expand to include a call center and be extended to other jails in Andhra Pradesh. The BPO at the Cherlapally Central Jail began in November 2010 with an initial 13 prisoners enrolled in a training program.
“We are happy to be involved in establishing the country’s first jail BPO, which will be fully operational in about three months,” said Gopinatha Reddy.
Of course this is just what is needed for an overpopulated, impoverished country with an insufficient number of well-paying jobs for its work force – competition from its prisoners. Although Narayanacharyulu depicts the program as a win-win proposition with both the prisoners and Radiant making money, there is little doubt where the bulk of the profits will go.
Sources: BBC News, www.itbusinessedge.com, Khaleej Times
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