A plan by Dutch justice officials to establish commercial call centres in jails was greeted with disbelief last week. The Dutch Association of Cell Centres deemed the plan "totally unacceptable", in particular if inmates are drafted in to sell insurance policies, such as theft coverage.
A government spokesman has dismissed the criticism and told news agency Reuters that in the Dutch prison system it is normal for prisoners to work part of the day.
The idea of prison call centres is not new. In the US the federal prison system started offering customer service call centers a couple of years ago. Inmates sit in guarded rooms taking orders for goods and products and handling shipping questions.
Dutch justice officials have already started negotiations with some call centres. Prisons in Nieuwersluis (near Utrecht) and Zwolle have been selected to offer so called dial-a-cell services first. What products and services will be offered is still a matter of debate.
The Dutch Association of Call Centres fears the plan could damage the call centre community and has advised its members not to sign any contracts with prisons.®