Department of Corrections and Community Supervision

David A. Paterson, Governor
Brian Fischer, Commissioner (DOCS)
David J. Swarts, Commissioner (DMV)

DOCS Contact: Erik Kriss, 518-457-8182, Erik.Kriss@doccs.ny.gov DMV contact: Jackie McGinnis, 518-473-7000, Jackie.McGinnis@dmv.ny.gov

For immediate release:

December 27, 2010

Departments of Correctional Services and Motor Vehicles Open Cost-Saving Call Center at Women’s Bedford Hills Correctional Facility

The New York State Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) and the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) have opened a new Call Center at the women’s Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in Westchester County which, in conjunction with the DMV Call Center at the men’s Arthur Kill Correctional Facility on Staten Island, is expected to answer more than one million calls per year while saving State taxpayers $3.5 million annually.

Bedford Hills’ center accepts calls from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. It employs 39 inmates, including 31 full-time and part-time customer service agents, six team leaders and two trainers. The inmate participants do not have access to DMV computers and are not able to access any customer data. Inmates convicted of a telephone-related crime or credit card or computer fraud are not eligible to work at the center. Calls are monitored at random.

Each call center agent is supplied with a profile book containing 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. Agents transfer any questions about detailed customer information to a civilian DMV employee.

DOCS Commissioner Brian Fischer said: “This program benefits both offenders and taxpayers, providing offenders with valuable and marketable skills that help them during incarceration and prepare them for successful reintegration into the community, while providing immediate and recurring savings to taxpayers. We are happy to open a new chapter in our partnership with the Department of Motor Vehicles on a program that has been a success now for nearly a quarter of a century.”

DMV Commissioner David J. Swarts said: “The opening of the new Call Center at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility represents not only cost savings for New York taxpayers, but also provides valuable job skills to those inmates who work in the program. Our experience with similar operations at other New York State correctional facilities has also shown that such Centers provide high-quality service to citizens who call with general questions about DMV transactions.”

The center at the maximum security Bedford Hills facility replaces DOCS’ original DMV call center, which opened at the women’s medium security Bayview Correctional Facility in Manhattan in March 1986. The decline in the State’s prison population and the one-year commitment inmates must make to working in the DMV call centers necessitated the move to Bedford Hills. Additionally, Bayview opened a specialized re-entry unit on June 29, 2009 to help female offenders nearing release with the more immediate aspects of preparing to return home. Bayview officially closed its call center on December 3, 2010.

The men’s medium security Arthur Kill Correctional Facility has been operating its DMV Call Center since 1988, currently employing 55 inmates. Arthur Kill’s center fields about 55,000 calls per month, between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, with the majority of calls coming from New York City, Long Island and Westchester and Rockland counties through one of two local lines or a toll-free line. About 1,200 inmates have worked at the Arthur Kill Call Center since it opened. As with Bedford Hills, the inmate participants at Arthur Kill have no access to DMV computers and are unable to access any customer data, and those convicted of a telephone-related crime or credit card or computer fraud are not eligible to work at the center.

Providing information by phone and materials by mail, the centers significantly reduce the number of customers who unnecessarily visit DMV offices.

Each inmate who works in a DMV call center must have either a high school diploma or a General Educational Development (GED/high school equivalency) diploma. Each is hired by DMV after being recommended by DOCS. Some inmates work as mail and supply clerks, maintaining the DMV supply room where all DMV forms are stored and assembling packets known as “Ready Packs,” which are mailed to the public upon request.

Participating inmates learn skills aimed at making them more marketable upon release from prison, including customer service, communication and problem solving, as well as “soft skills.” The program also provides participants with knowledge of vehicle and traffic law, permits, renewals, Commercial Drivers Licenses, fee structures, non-driver IDs and how to convert out-of-state licenses to New York State licenses. Participants are also taught conflict resolution skills, public interaction techniques and appropriate workplace behaviors. These skills are transferable to telemarketing and survey/polling positions, and in a service- based economy, such skills are critical to re-entry success.

Participating inmates are paid standard hourly industry wages that range from 46 cents to $1.14 per hour based on experience level and title, which include Agent (entry level), Trainer and Team Leader.