Congressman investigates federal prison industries

Jon Brandt, press secretary for Congressman Pete Hoekstra, released a Media Advisory on September 22, 2000 informing of a Hearing to be held on September 26th to investigate Federal Prison Industries' commercial sales. Claims that the Federal Prison Industries program is diverting used computers and other materials from inner city and rural schools to be sold commercially were the subjects of this hearing
The Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Education and the Workforce Committee scheduled itself to meet on the topic: "Federal Prison Industries - Diverting Federal Property from the Computers for Learning and other programs to expand FPI's commercial sales." Hoekstra, R-Holland, chairs the subcommittee. Hoekstra said the subcommittee has received reports that an FPI program based in Florida has been selling reconditioned government computers in competition with private-sector businesses.

Clinton Administration policy gives priority for decommissioned government computers to be donated to inner city and rural schools to help bridge the so-called "Digital Divide." FPI is a government-sponsored corporation that uses federal prisoners to produce goods that may only be sold to federal agencies.

Federal law prohibits the products of inmate labor from being sold on the open market. However, FPI spokesmen claim that a 1992 finding allows it to sell commercial services and has begun to aggressively expand its business as a federal subcontractor.

"Whether reconditioning computers and selling them is a service or a product seems to be a matter of contention," said Hoekstra, who is the primary sponsor of a bill (H.R. 2551) that would reform the FPI program. The bill currently has the bipartisan support of 127 House members.

Among the scheduled hearing witnesses were: Victor Arnold-Vic - Property Management Division - Federal Supply Service, Jasper Jones - Computers for Youth and Families - Philadelphia, Pa., Bill Wilson - Nat'l Assn. of State Agencies for Surplus Property, Randall K. Smith - Alpha Omega Computer Solutions - Cottondale, Fla., Andrew J. Corbin - Technical Services Laboratory, Inc. - Fort Walton Beach, Fla., Sherry Low - Defense Reutilization & Marketing - Defense Logistics Agency

FOR MORE INFORMATION, contact: Jon Brandt, press secretary (202) 225-4928 or (202) 225-4401 work (703) 998-0846 home E-mail: Visit the congressman's website at

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