Department of Corrections and Community Supervision

New York State
Department of Correctional Services
David A. Paterson, Governor
Brian Fischer, Commissioner

Contact: Erik Kriss
Office of Public Information
(518) 457-8182

DMV Contact: Jackie McGinnis
(518) 473-7000

For immediate release:

October 31, 2008

Department of Motor Vehicle Informational Call Center Program Marks 20 Years at Arthur Kill Correctional Facility

The New York State Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) and the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) held a ceremony today at Arthur Kill Correctional Facility on Staten Island to mark the 20th anniversary of the Arthur Kill Call Center, where inmates field motor vehicle calls from Downstate New Yorkers and provide basic information.

The program saves State taxpayers about $2 million per year, provides inmates with valuable job skills that they can use to become productive citizens after their release from prison, and is set up to ensure that no inmate has access to any personal information.

DMV Commissioner David Swarts and Executive Deputy Commissioner Wayne Benjamin joined DOCS Deputy Commissioner Osbourne A. McKay and Arthur Kill Superintendent Dennis J. Breslin at the event, held inside the Call Center.

The Center accepts calls between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and fields 55,000 calls per month to the DMV placed from New York City, Long Island and Westchester and Rockland counties through one of two local lines or a toll-free line.

Participating inmates must commit to at least a year in the program and must have a high school or equivalency diploma. Inmate call center representatives are selected by DOCS staff, interviewed and hired by DMV employees and trained by other inmates under DMV employees’ supervision. The inmates have no access to any DMV computers and are unable to access any customer data. Each representative has a profile book with all the information necessary to answer general assistance questions, such as office hours and locations, identification requirements, the emissions program, and what customers will need and what they should expect before visiting a DMV office. Any questions about detailed or customer information are transferred to a civilian DMV employee.

Some inmate participants work as mail and supply clerks, maintaining the DMV supply room where all DMV forms are stored and assembling packets of information known as “Ready Packs,” which are mailed to the public upon request.

After their release from Arthur Kill, participants may be eligible to apply for and take the entry-level Motor Vehicle Representative exam, which requires the applicant to have a high school or equivalency diploma and customer service, sales, or clerical experience.

“This program is one of many that not only provide inmates with meaningful work while in prison but give them practical experience that can translate into gainful employment after release,” said Correctional Services Commissioner Brian Fischer, who noted that virtually all inmates eventually return to their communities. “We’ve been happy to partner with DMV on the Arthur Kill Call Center for 20 years, saving taxpayers money and preparing offenders to become productive citizens in the process.”

DMV Commissioner Swarts said: “We are pleased to have this opportunity to celebrate our 20-year partnership with the Department of Correctional Services and to acknowledge some of the people who have made the program at the Arthur Kill Call Center such a success. We are very proud of this program, which is a win-win for all involved. Inmates obtain job skills that benefit them when they transition back into society and customers have their questions answered in a timely and accurate manner.”

The Arthur Kill Call Center is currently staffed by 37 customer service representatives, four team leaders, two trainers and two mail clerks, all of whom work under the supervision of DMV employees and DOCS correction officers. Throughout the year, training classes are held where up to 22 inmates can acquire the knowledge to become customer service representatives.

The Center opened in 1988 to assist a similar center at the women’s medium security Bayview Correctional Facility in Manhattan in alleviating high call volumes and the number of in-office customers at DMV’s Downstate field offices. The centers were created to provide information by phone and materials by mail, significantly reducing the number of customers who unnecessarily visit DMV offices.

Participating inmates are paid hourly wages that range from 16 cents to $1.14, depending upon job title and experience level. The average annual cost of inmate labor at Arthur Kill was about $50,000 between State fiscal years 2001-2002 and 2006-2007.

About 1,200 inmates have worked at the Arthur Kill Call Center since it opened.