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Ohio Prison Industry Cuts Over 35% of Workforce

The workforce for Ohio Penal Industries (OPI) has been reduced by more than 35% since 2007. With budget cuts due to the economic downturn forcing state agencies – OPI’s largest customers – to reduce spending, revenue at OPI has spiraled downward.

Net sales at OPI were $36.4 million in FY 2007. Sales for FY 2010 were only $28.2 million. “It’s a lack of demand,” said Carlo LaParo, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. “Many government entities have had their budgets cut.”

In 2008, OPI closed 13 of its 42 prison industry programs. That caused a decline in prisoner workers from 2,097 to 1,347. OPI manufactures numerous products, including license plates, office furniture, trash can liners, bedding, clothing, toilet paper, eyeglasses, and state and U.S. flags. It also has a meat processing plant and refurbishes salt trucks for the Ohio Department of Transportation.

OPI announced the closure of additional prison industry programs in February 2010, which resulted in another reduction in its prisoner workforce. [See: PLN, Sept. 2010, p.28]. The agency still operates 24 manufacturing programs at 16 facilities.

OPI recently exited an “extensive furniture-making endeavor” because private businesses, amazingly, were able to make cheaper products without the use of prison slave labor. OPI is now seeking customers to purchase a new line of furniture that uses parts from an Amish company that are assembled by prisoners.

LaParo said OPI is trying to solicit Ohio colleges and universities as customers, and hopes to partner with private companies. The expansion will have limits, though. “We certainly do not want to be in a position where we negatively impact private-sector jobs,” he stated.
However, given that OPI products are produced with cheap prison slave labor, it is difficult to fathom how they could not “negatively impact” freeworld businesses that sell similar products made by non-prisoners.

Source: Dayton Daily News

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