UNICOR inmates_anm2The Bureau of Prisons does a nice sideline selling uniforms and equipment to the military. Federal Prison Industries actually has its own trademark: UNICOR™. UNICOR made stuff includes Army uniforms, web gear, rucksacks, and various other odds and ends.

The prison administrators say that it not only earns the BOP money, but that inmates who work (for pennies an hour) for FPI/Unicor are less likely to cause trouble in prison, or to bounce back once they get released. (Whether this represents causation, or just that FPI is selective about which prisoners get jobs, can’t be determined).

By statute, FPI is restricted to selling its products to the Federal Government. Its principal customer is the Department of Defense, from which FPI derives approximately 53% of its sales. Other key customers include the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Transportation, the Treasury, Agriculture, and Veterans Affairs; the General Services Administration, Social Security Administration, U.S. Postal Service, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons.


They support their products with the wryly-named Escape-Proof Guarantee. And yes, they do make license plates.  And they produce a wide range of targets for the military or law enforcement (which has to be irony-packed in about three different ways), and an MP5 case that’s currently on special. Of course, they only sell to federal agencies (to keep from competing with private businesses using “no-cost” prison labor).

unicor uniformsOur own experience with Unicor-made gear has been less than stellar. The rucksacks in particular have problems ranging from straps sewn on backwards, to things missassembled, to pockets inadvertently sewn shut. The huge delta in quality between the last Lowe pack that SF was allowed to buy (the Lowe Vector 2) and the Vector 2 knock-off that Unicor kind of threw together was really eye-opening. It saved DOD vast sums of money, but only by making the new guys buy their own Vector 2 or other equivalent pack.

A number of SF guys stick with ancient ALICE packs for quality and durability reasons, although they’re frequently so modded and updated that you can barely recognize them. The ALICE has its own deficiencies, and for all we know was built with care by cons, too.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized on by Hognose.

About Hognose

Former Special Forces 11B2S, later 18B, weapons man. (Also served in intelligence and operations jobs in SF).

6 thoughts on “Wearing clothes prisoners made? You Just Might be a Soldier


You get what you pay for!


Actually no – the Army pays almost top dollar for that stuff.

Hognose Post author

I think GBS’s point is that the troopies get it for “free” — which is only true if they turn it in or have a reasonable explanation for a combat loss report/report of survey.

Fortunately, we lost a jingle truck down a ravine in Afghanistan. Anything that came up missing, we “remembered” we had put it in that specific truck. You don’t always have that option. I recall paying $260 for a gore-tex parka back in the mid eighties.

Stefan van der Borght

Hmmm, not sure where the ADF got their stuff but when they changed over to the auscam pattern the packs and web gear were awful. Might have been prison slave labour or SEA sweatshop slave labour, but certainly not much good for carrying anything other than air. Also, the genius that put velcro closures on the pouches could have spared themselves the trouble….we would have shouted “Yoohoo, over here!” if and when the fancy took us. Not being special in any positive sense of the word, carrying my beloved Vietnam-era canvas pack (personal purchase, I’m not that ancient) was naturally verboten. Some of us pushed the envelope anyway when it came to forgetting certain bits of supposedly useful gear. There’s the easy way, the hard way, and the Army way; at least in peacetime. When the game’s on and the first few hard lessons get re-learned one hopes the REMFs get a reshuffle and some semblance of sanity returns.

Say, I wonder what view your Founding Fathers would have taken of your enormous prison population making stuff for a huge standing army. Hmmm.

Bill K

Stefan, was that a rhetorical question?

But here’s three quotes to leave us wondering no further:

In time of actual war, great discretionary powers are constantly given to the Executive Magistrate. Constant apprehension of War, has the same tendency to render the head too large for the body. A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defence against foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.” – James Madison

“Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom of Europe. the supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any bands of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States.” – Noah Webster

The Greeks and Romans had no standing armies, yet they defended themselves. The Greeks by their laws, and the Romans by the spirit of their people, took care to put into the hands of their rulers no such engine of oppression as a standing army. Their system was to make every man a soldier and oblige him to repair to the standard of his country whenever that was reared. This made them invincible; and the same remedy will make us so.” -Thomas Jefferson

How could they have been in favor of making stuff for something they thought should not exist?

Old Radar Tech

The last run of M1950 stoves and military gasoline lanterns were prison built. (I collect and restore these things). The stoves required a full rebuild to avoid becoming a campfire. The lanterns – well, the ceramic coated tops were actually painted. First time you light the lantern the paint burns off leaving bare metal. Missing or incorrectly assembled parts are the norm – not a terribly ‘bright’ idea with a pressurized gasoline appliance.

For those who may have had a negative experience, let me assure you that correctly assembled and operated these things work very well indeed.