Some say "altruistic business owner" is an oxymoron. If that's your feeling, look what Greg Grice is doing with his Uniglobe Destiny Travel franchise in Clarksville, Texas. In May, Grice hired and began training 30 inmates from a nearby minimum-security prison to work in a travel agency call center within the prison walls. "We've tried to make it as much of a free-world experience as possible," says Grice, "so when they get out, they can have references and skills, and immediately be productive members of society."
To allay customers' potential fears about dealing with criminals, the workers' access to personal and financial information is restricted. They answer phones, and clients are informed that they are talking to prisoners. "There won't be any surprises," says Grice. "Everyone will know who they're dealing with. In many ways, using inmates is a selling point because we [can] pass the savings along to the client."
Grice pays the inmates minimum wage, which goes toward a mandatory daily $8 room-and-board fee for prisoners and child support or victim restitution funds if mandated by the courts. Because 50 percent of travel agencies' expenses typically go toward employee salaries and benefits, Uniglobe can use the lower overhead to stay profitable despite recent airline commission cuts while giving inmates valuable work experience in the process.
Uniglobe Destiny Travel, 8226 Douglas Ave., #112, Dallas, TX 75225, (214) 346-0200