In early 2011, MCI prisoners told Cantebury, who runs the facility’s gardening and aquatic programs, that they wanted to start a recycling program. But he had no idea where to begin.
“I didn’t recycle myself,” Cantebury told the Marion Star, “so they suggested I start.” After reaping the benefits of recycling at home, where Cantebury estimated he saved hundreds of dollars every year, he applied his new skill set to MCI’s population of 2,600 prisoners and 448 employees, who generate plenty of garbage.
A sorting center opened in April 2011 and began diverting 25 to 30 tons of trash from the prison each month. The center employs 23 prisoners who drive forklifts, load trailers and operate a compactor. According to MCI deputy warden Tim Milligan, because the prison pays to have its waste taken to a landfill, recycling is saving the facility over $1,000 a month.
Now, Sims Brothers, a local recycling company, is paying MCI to have prisoners sort, compact and prepare bulk loads of plastics for shipping. Along with a $10,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Cantebury said the additional revenue will be reinvested in the prison’s recycling program.
Prisoners employed at the center earn from $18 to $25 a month, the same as other prison jobs, and occasionally receive free “hygiene bags” with deodorant and soap they’d otherwise have to purchase. But the payoff goes further than prisoner wages and antiperspirant, according to Cantebury. “We want to create jobs that create a better quality of life for the inmates,” he stated. Using prison slave labor to help private companies boost their profit margins is what passes for a successful jobs program in the United States these days. Does $25 a month really create a better quality of life for prisoners?
Jeff Clark, an executive with Sims Brothers, said he would consider hiring prisoners who were employed at MCI’s recycling center upon their release. But this begs the question of why should he hire non-prisoners at even the minimum wage when he can get the same work done for $25 a month? Why doesn’t he pay the prisoners the same wages he pays non-prisoners?
The answer to that question is self-evident: It’s more profitable to use cheap prison slave labor and to have a captive work force that is happy to sort trash for low wages.
Source: Marion Star
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