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Prisoners work in e-commerce

The Flemish University College Odisee is exploring the possibility to let prisoners work in e-commerce and handle online orders. The idea is that the development of a strong logistic and e-commerce profile would increase their changes on the labor market after release. In the prison of Beveren in Belgium, there is already a couple of months a pilot project running where prisoners are working in a call-center. This is another example how technology depended labor could be offered to prisoners.

The impacts of digital technologies on labor markets are substantial. Today computers have displaced workers in a wide range of routine work, including many manufacturing jobs — work that is typically offered in prisons. If we want to increase their changes on the labor market, prisons and prison industries need to prepare prisoners for this new reality.

Most of the work offerings in prisons still keep prisoners far away from computers or other modern technology. Many prisoners who often have learn a technical skill during there time in prison, will have difficulties – based on their imprisonment background - to work for an employer and therefore look to become successful as a self-employed entrepreneur. But many of them are not well prepared to do this in a current digital economy: accountancy, contract, order- and stock management and the knowledge on how to create an own website are some crucial skills to become successful.

The enabling of digital delivery of services inside prisons therefore should go further then only supporting some leisure, care & treatment programs, education and typical prison processes by the provisioning of some kiosk or in-cell technology. An integrated approach should also be able to allow secured access to different systems and services to allow prisoners to learn on the field how to work in a digital environment: a call-center, computer programming, office work, supply chain management, e-commerce, … or maybe in the future learning AI systems and robots to desist from bad behavior :-)

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