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Career Story: Business Representative Selling Products Made By Prisoners

Business Representative Selling Products Made By Prisoners

Job Title: Business Representative

Education: n/a

Previous Experience: I worked as a Service Representative/Account Manager for four different insurance companies in the group benefits area. I now work for the Department of Correction in the Industries Dept. selling the product and services the inmates provide.

Job Tasks: I work for the Department of Correction, selling and servicing products and services to customers. The inmates from the prisons make the products/services and are paid for thier time. Our customers are mostly municipalities and state agencies. Some of our services include print shop, optical shop, reupholstery. Our products include street signs and decals, flags, embroidery, silk screening, binders, mattresses, wood/furniture shop, textiles, clothing, metal shop which makes beds, cell furniture, and of course, license plates.

My day starts taking orders, receiving completed shipping reports, customer service calls, helping out in our show room and taking in and releasing reupholstered furniture. No two days are a like, and things can change on a dime. I enjoy the people interaction and feeling of satisfaction of fulfilling a customer's needs and rectifying any situations that may arise.

Although we are not in prison, we do have some inmates who are pre-release and they help with janitorial duties and warehouse works. Working with inmates is very interesting. There is protocol that must be followed. You cannot give them food and certain items are considered contraband. We must continually be sure we do not have any contraband - even anti-bacterial hand lotion is considered contraband. All eating utensils must be plastic. We must monitor where our scissors, letter openers and other tools are. Keys must be put into a lock box. It's amazing to me how many truck drivers will get out of their vehicles and leave them running. We frown on that in this environment.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is providing customers with quality products at a fraction of what you would pay through a "regular" retail operation.

The "worst" part, is having the customers not understand that although we are a business, we are not a typical business. People don't understand that the inmates in the shops at the various prisons don't work a regular 40 hour week. They assume that there "must be enough cons to get the job done". The prison can go into lock down, thereby losing time. If the shop instructor doesn't come in to work, the shop doesn't open. You try to defend yourself without inadvertently becoming "an unidentified DOC source".

Job Tips:
1. I would recommend courses in criminal justice as well as psychology. The dynamics in prison is extremely interesting, and the interaction with the inmates can be difficult. They can be charming but you must remember that all they think about is what you can do for them.

2. Of course, Marketing courses would be helpful as well.

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