Prisoners Make Someone a Profit

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Prisoners don’t just make license plates anymore:

“We Have the Time to Do It Right,” is one of the mantras on the unit’s corporate website; “Built with Conviction” is another.

Although 40 of 50 states still produce license plates behind bars, prison businesses have diversified. Inmates at Arizona Correctional Industries at the Lewis prison complex in Buckeye fix diesel tractors. Nearly a thousand Tennessee and South Carolina convicts use draw knives and hand scrapers to “antique” floors for a company that markets interiors with a vintage look.

The Pendleton, Ore., penitentiary sells a line of Prison Blue work apparel. California has a product in development: its own denim collection, Folsom Prison Blues.

In the U.S., prison industries—correctional facilities with for-profit ventures that sell goods and services to the public—will have sales of over $2.2 billion this year, according to the National Correctional Industries Association, a Baltimore-based trade group. Silver State’s auto-restoration shop here in Indian Springs brought in $130,000 of the facility’s $6 million in fiscal 2010 revenue.

Besides auto-restoration, Silver State Industries also has a shop that packages old playing cards into souvenirs for Nevada casinos, and others that print books and make clothing.

Photo by stoupa/ShutterStock.

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