NORTH CAROLINA –Most of us have the image in our head of prisoners making license plates. But, this is just a small part of the different items they make and industries they work in.
Currently, 2,800 inmates work for Correction Enterprises, a branch of the Department of Public Safety. Through the agency, inmates work in 32 producing operations, ranging from making eyeglasses to farming and transcribing and printing Braille. All the products and services are made for the government or nonprofits.
Director Karen Brown said all money made by inmates through sales goes back into the agency, making it independent.
“We receive no taxpayer money whatsoever. Nothing from the state’s budget comes to Correction Enterprises, “ Brown explained.
WHO WORKS AND WHY?
All level offenders are eligible to work in the agency, but Brown explained, “We prefer medium custody because we like the offenders to work for us long enough to get an apprenticeship which takes about 3 years.”
Inmates can receive certifications through the Department of Commerce, the Department of Labor and OSHA. The jobs play a critical role in allowing inmates to learn work ethic once they’re released.
“When they’re first incarcerated, a lot of them have never worked a legal job in their life, so they need to learn not only the technical jobs but all the soft skills to retain the job.”
Brown said the soft skills include learning to work in teams, report problems to supervisors, show up for work on time and even tying a tie. After working with Correction Enterprises for 6 months or more, the agency will help inmates get a job once released.
SALES, PRODUCTS, PAY
In 2016, Correction Enterprises made nearly $96 million in sales. Most of the purchases, 63 percent, were made by the Department of Public Safety, with other state agencies snatching up 30 percent of the sales. Schools, colleges and universities made 3 percent of purchases, with open markets, non-profits, local municipalities and state employees rounding out the purchases.
Inmates were paid over $1.2 million in 2016. Where does the rest of that $96 million go? Brown explained it goes into purchasing raw materials, paying 380 non-inmate staff wages, inmate training, equipment and buildings.
The jobs with Correction Enterprises are paid less than work release, where low-level inmates get to leave the prison to work for private employers, but they’re paid more than jobs inside the prison; making Correction Enterprises highly sought after work.
Food is the number one most sold product, through canning goods, meat processing and fresh vegetables. All food is distributed to NC prisons and county jails.
Sewing (clothes, linens) is number two at 17 percent. Laundry, printing and janitorial services round out the top five.
The following is just a snapshot of what inmates produce within Correction Enterprises.
Clothing: Sewing garments and apparel, including athletic wear, fire and rescue uniforms, inmate uniforms and polo shirts.
Linens: Sewing blankets, curtains, mattresses, towels and washcloths.
Textile: Sewing aprons, making gun and eyeglasses cases.
Safety Gear: Sewing orange safety vests, making signs and decals.
Eyeglasses: Making prescription and safety glasses for state employees.
Framing and Matting: Creating stock frames and customize wood, plastic and metal frames.
Food: Farming and canning products, shipping meat products and fresh vegetable distribution.
Metal Products: Making grills, park benches, picnic tables and work tables.
Office Seating: Making stools and mesh chairs.
Wood Furniture: Crafting tables, book cases and cabinets.
Janitorial: Making cleansers, soaps, soap dispensers, packaging detergents and air fresheners as well as laundering items.
Oil and Lubricants: Repackaging oil, brake fluid, power steering fluid and antifreeze.
Print and Quick Copy Products: Making banners, posters, books, manuals, brochures and business cards.
Retail: Sewing shirts, caps and bags branded with Department of Public Safety logo or North Carolina state seal (state employees only.)
Reupholster: (state, local and city agencies only.)
Signs: Making license, name plates, office/room numbers, caution stop signs, community watch signs, parking and school signs.
Others: Producing braille, plastic bags, packaging and shipping items, recycling and distribution.