WASHINGTON -- Congress passed a bill Thursday, Sept. 14, which establishes strict limits on Federal Prison Industries Inc., a wholly-owned government corporation that was set up to provide paid employment to inmates, primarily in the manufacture of products for use by the federal government. The bill will infuse more competition in government purchasing, opening the doors for private manufacturers to sell to government agencies, as well as block recent efforts by FPI to sell its services to the private sector. The bill now goes before the Senate for voting.

The bill is sponsored by Representative Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) and amends Title 18 of the U.S. Code, which requires FPI to compete for contracts and provides a five-year period during which FPI must find other sources of work opportunities for inmates. The bill was passed by a vote of 362 to 57. In the 1990s, government buyers were required to seek products and services from the federal agency before turning to private companies.

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