Colorado Rejects Inmate Telemarketers

Colorado state senators have denied a plan to have prison inmates perform telemarketing of magazine subscriptions to consumers, an idea that caused a public outcry.

Republicans in the state Senate quashed an effort by Democrats to include $562,000 in the Colorado budget for an inmate telemarketing program. The state's $13 billion budget passed April 18 without money for the program.

The state Department of Corrections had included its request for money for an inmate telemarketing program earlier, but then pulled the request after drawing criticism from the public. The state House of Representatives later voted to approve the state's budget without the funding.

Democrats in the Senate tried to revive the program, arguing that it could provide valuable work for inmates. State correctional officials said safeguards would be in place, such as automatic dialing, to prevent inmates from obtaining personal information, including phone numbers, about consumers.

Critics of inmate telemarketing have cited past incidences of harassment. Last year, a Dallas woman filed a class-action lawsuit against a home video firm that employed Utah state inmates as telemarketers on charges that an inmate, using information obtained from an inmate telemarketer, wrote a letter to her daughter. The lawsuit is pending.

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