My Experience With Unicor Prison Industries

The other day I was reflecting on my personal experience with Unicor Industries, better known as Prison factories. I worked in Unicor several times while I was incarcerated in FCI Danbury and earned enough money to purchase my own commissary items such as toiletries, stamps and snacks.

I never quite made enough with Unicor to save money, but I’ve heard of people saving thousands of dollars from working while serving lengthy sentences. On average an individual probably earns $110-$125 a month in Unicor, but depending on your grade, which increases the longer you work in the factory, an inmate who is incarcerated for a long time can earn up to $1,000 a month with over time. They can even earn sick leave.

When I was working in Unicor Industies, I was responsible for soldering cables for radio mounts to be installed in military jeeps. I absolutely abhorred that work. It was tedious, mundane, factory work that took the life out of me. I have always been passionate about helping others and sitting in the factory soldering military cables was not my idea of service.

Yet, the money I earned made serving time a little easier. I could afford soap toothpaste and deodorant without calling home to beg a family member to send me a money order. Working in the Education Department, or Recreation, paid about $17-20 a month on average.

Department of Justice Video about Unicor

Interestingly, some inmates love the structure and status of Unicor jobs. I’ve been told that it helps the time go by. In Unicor Industries the shifts are from 8:30am-3:30pm. After work inmates prepare for count; then, they engage in some sort of recreational activities for a few hours, shower then go to bed in preparation for the next day.

Some people say Unicor kept them out of trouble. I was bored out of my mind in Unicor. I never stayed there for more than a year during the 18 years I spent incarcerated. I just couldn’t stand it. I would put my name on the long waiting list, go to Unicor for a short period, get burnt out and return to The Education Department or Recreation. Then, I would repeat the same cycle when I got tired of begging my family members for money.

Some consider Unicor slave labor and a major component of the Prison Industrial Complex, because like any other machines prison factories feed off of labor. Some Unicor factory workers make army uniforms, U.S. Post Office mailbags, office furniture, and stationary.

The Unicor Industry is such a vital part of the prison system that even if there’s a murder and the entire visit is shut down with no movement including visitation, the factory will still be open. Unicor had its benefits for some people, but for me it was a drag. I don’t miss it one bit.



About Lashonia Etheridge-Bey

Lashonia Etheridge-Bey is a Public Speaker who can candidly and articulately speak to the consequences of youth violence, the effects of incarceration and the challenges of reentry into society. Read Lashonia's Full BIO Here 

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