I want to start out by saying that I don't really have a problem with prisoners helping to pay for their time and learning new skills that can be
applied when they are released. It makes a ton of sense. I think it's also beneficial for the prisoners as they get to actually do something with
their time instead of sitting in a cell getting drunk off of toilet wine .
That being said, the following problems seem rather scandalous.
Today, some 1,600 incarcerated men and women in prison factories produce everything from dorm furniture to school lunches. Washington Correctional
Industries (CI) generates up to $70 million in sales a year, ranking as the nation’s fourth-largest prison labor program.
I automatically take issue with a company profiting off of inmate labor. Yeah, it may be teaching them new skills, but it seems shady, especially
when you realize they aren't getting paid at a normal rate. That causes issues for other businesses. Businesses that don't have the same deal as
Here are some details about the racket.
But behind CI’s glossy brochures and polished YouTube videos is a broken program that has cost taxpayers millions of dollars, charged exorbitant
markups to state agencies to make up for losses, and taken jobs from private businesses that can’t compete with cheap prison labor, a Seattle Times
investigation has found.
So essentially free workforce, and this is fun, and they mark up the items they sell to State agencies and Universities. Why don't the State
agencies and Universities shop around and get a better deal? Because they can't, there is a law requiring them to purchase from prison staffed
CI has reaped millions of dollars — money it keeps — by inflating prices of furniture it sells to state agencies and public universities,
capitalizing on a law that requires they buy from prison factories.
Isn't that some ish? So now we have a workforce that is basically akin to slave labor working for a company selling products for inflated prices to
the government because there is a rule saying the government has to buy from them... Seems awfully fishy. It also seems incredibly wasteful for
taxpayers. I'm really interested about who thought it was a good to let this happen, and if they have ties to the company.
Let's talk about wasted tax dollars.
Far from being self-sufficient, CI has cost taxpayers at least $20 million since 2007, including $750,000 spent over three years on a fish farm to
raise tilapia that has yet to yield a single meal.
One of the key things CI brags about is helping people learn a skill that will help them on the "outside". The claim is that those employed in
these programs have lower rates of recidivism, but there's no real data to suggest that. If that is indeed one of the main areas of focus,
rehabilitation and giving people a chance, what's up with the following?
CI has even undermined its key mission — “Working on the Inside, Succeeding on the Outside.” Rather than always employing inmates nearing
release, CI attempted to cut costs and boost profits by filling at least 171 prison jobs with those serving life sentences. They will never be on the
Huh. Not going to make a huge difference there, are we? Making a move like that seems to indicate that any altruism at the company's inception has
gone flying out the window. It should also be noted that a number of furniture manufacturers were questioned about whether or not they had employed
someone that worked for CI, looks like they haven't. Ugh.
CI was employing people that were dangerous. Including a man that was serving 163 years and another that was serving 45. After some incidents, the
company was required to no longer allowed to retain prisoners for more than 7 years, and the population serving life sentences had to equal
(percentage) of those serving life in the actual prison. Again, doesn't that seem screwed up? They were actively trying to not waste the money
training new people, so lifers made the most sense. Even while they were paying lip service to rehabilitation and future jobs.
So this isn't looking too good. Here's some more. The main money maker is building furniture. So why has the company purchased $4 MILLION in
furniture? Because they can pay someone $0.55 an hour to assemble it, then have a guaranteed sale even if the product is outrageously marked up.
Some agencies and businesses have complained about this for years. The Department of Social and Health Services once ordered two steel bookcases
from CI, a furniture executive testified to lawmakers in 2005. A private vendor offered the same pair for $376 with overnight delivery, he said. CI
charged $536 and took 13 weeks to make delivery.
Yeah, I'll bet they've complained. That's ridiculous. That's two bookcases, think how much furniture is needed. Now consider all these various
agencies and their budget. A budget they get from us, the taxpayers. That money is going to a company that's basically committing highway robbery.
Legally sanctioned highway robbery. Its also screwing over small business owners and their employees. Read the article and look at the profit
margins between a normal business and this company. It's significant.
I already took issue with for profit prisons. This story blew my fragile little Domo mind.
Here's another fun fact I was blissfully unaware of:
The federal government and every state except Alaska — which abandoned its program — currently operate correctional factories. In total, 542
prisons employ 67,000 inmates and produce more than $1 billion in goods and services.
It seems Nevada and Texas (I was surprised) have recently started trying to cur this behavior. I can only hope more States follow suit.
We talk about the prisons being for profit, about corrupt companies and government officials, well you'll find a nice summary of all that if you
click the link. This makes me angry. Thanks for your time.
Link to article