Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's presidential campaign says they will end its relationship with one of its vendors after a report by The Intercept revealed that a third-party vendor used by the campaign, contracted prison labor to reach out to voters in California.
According to the explosive report published this week, Bloomberg's campaign hired a third-party vendor who engaged the services of ProCom, a company based in New Jersey that runs call centers out of several prisons in Oklahoma. The vendor reportedly used incarcerated women at the Oklahoma minimum-security women's prison, Dr. Eddie Warrior Correctional Center, to make calls on behalf of Bloomberg's campaign to voters in California.
The campaign did not disclose the name of the third-party vendor it used to hire ProCom, or how much they paid for their call center services.
"We only learned about this when the reporter called us, but as soon as we discovered which vendor's subcontractor had done this, we immediately ended our relationship with the company and the people who hired them," the campaign said in an email to reporters. "We do not support this practice and we are making sure our vendors more properly vet their subcontractors moving forward."
In a statement provided to Newsweek, ProCom defended the company saying that it paid the state's minimum wage to the Department of Corrections, and the DOC pays the incarcerated workers in turn. Inmates can earn $1.45 an hour working for call centers, eight hours a day, five days a week, Matt Elliott, a spokesperson for the State of Oklahoma Department of Corrections told CBS News.
"We believe this type of work helps prepare inmates for release, and these public-private partnerships give them an idea of and training in what to expect in the workplace later," Elliott said.
ProCom added in their statement that the program also allows inmates to learn skills they can use to reintegrate into society.
"Inmates employed by ProCom receive marketable job training and skills that allow them to both earn money while they're incarcerated and position themselves for gainful employment when their prison terms end, including with ProCom,"
"A lot of politicians and advocacy organizations say they want to tackle the recidivism problem that plagues our country's criminal justice system. But ProCom does more than pay lip service to this serious problem. As our employees will tell you, we help them get their lives back and be productive members of society—and positive influences on their families," the statement read.
Bloomberg entered the race last month as a latecomer to the 2020 Democratic primary and is currently self-funding his campaign. The former NYC Mayor's campaign has eschewed the early primary states in favor of directing much of his campaign's resources to the Super Tuesday delagate-heavy states like California.
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