Why These Companies Outsource Work to Inmates | NOW

In Dutch prisons, a lot of work is done by inmates. They work for companies that partially outsource their production to the prisons. It is not only in the company’s interest, but it also gives the arrested person a chance for a better future.

In total, around 8,000 detainees are employed during their detention by In-Made, the prison production companies of the Judicial Institutions Agency (DJI). Various work is carried out at 28 production sites: from assembly and assembly to woodworking and food packaging.

In-Made has more than a thousand customers, of which 85 percent are SMEs. These companies place part of the production with ’employees’ in prison. But not all organizations are open about it, says Frank Becker from In-Made. “A lot of companies think: once a thief, always a thief. But most inmates are not major criminals and are there for an average of three months. They are just people, just like you and me.”

Becker sees an increase in the number of companies that end up with them. “This is due, among other things, to the corona crisis and the unrest in Europe due to the war in Ukraine. They prefer to have their production done nearby. Sustainability often also plays a role here.”

Outsourcing also costs companies time and money

DOCKR, a provider of cargo bikes for entrepreneurs, also chose a collaboration with In-Made and has the cargo bike containers assembled by inmates.

“The labor is cheaper, but logistically it’s much more complicated.”

Kees Jan Blankestijn, DOCKR

That they are cheaper forces was not a motivation, says Jan Blankestijn, head of Product & Innovation Kees. “The labor is cheaper, but logistically it is much more complicated. This means that costs are added. Furthermore, a detainee works of his own free will, he can stop or suddenly drop out. Although most are highly motivated to work, take one quite a risk.”

At the locations in Sittard and Nieuwegein, where DOCKR gets the work done, there are also its own employees. They make sure everyone understands everything and they train new detainees. “Of course, it also costs us time and money. When I look at our numbers, I can wonder if it is a logical choice. But now we don’t want to do anything else.”

The detainees are working on a successful return

According to Blankestijn, this is mainly due to the social contribution that the company makes in this way. “We are a sustainable company, but it is also great that we can mean something to others. The work gives detainees a more positive feeling about their time there.” Becker immediately sees the positive consequences of this. “The biggest advantage is that there is less hanging around. But many arrested people also discover where their talents lie through the work.”

Anyone who wants to start must show that they are really motivated. Becker: “Then a lot is possible. We believe that you should always have a chance, but you have to do something about it. This is how it works in the outside world. Work is not always fun, but it is necessary to be able to pay the bills Pay.”

Working in prison gives many inmates a better basis for a successful return to society. But then the work inside must look like the work outside the walls, says Becker. “In this way, you better prepare a prisoner, but in this way an employer also sees that they can really handle the task.”

More attractive to the younger generation of employees

DJI thus prepares detainees for work after arrest. Also by giving them the opportunity to obtain a professional diploma or certificate. This is part of the Ex-Made program. DOCKR also wants to be a part of that by offering some arrested people a place in the company after their release. More companies should do that, says Blankestijn. “Take a step forward as a business. Take a little more risk for once. Don’t just look at your numbers. If you do, give it time.”

Blankestijn knows that it is easier for a relatively young company like DOCKR to make this kind of choice. “Older companies have often done things the same way for years, so it’s hard to change. But it’s not impossible.”

For companies that are in doubt: It will probably also make you attractive to the younger generations. “We feel that especially our young employees find it very important that we give something back. They are very excited about that.”

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