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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Prison factories produce a range of items, including hope

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Wanted: Convicted felons with good behavior, for part-time jobs making Big House products at state prison workshops. Opportunities available in printing, textiles and soap making. Salary range -- 19 to 42 cents per hour, with bonuses up to 70 cents an hour for good work.

License plate makers need not apply, at least not here at State Correctional Institution Huntingdon.

Pennsylvania Correctional Industries, a program that puts inmates at 15 state prisons to work while they serve their sentences, employs more than 1,500 inmates statewide. And they make a lot more than license plates.

SCI Huntingdon is a gabled, red-brick structure that dates to 1889, when it opened as a "reformatory" for delinquent youths. It became a maximum-security facility for state prisoners in 1960 and housed death-row inmates until 1995.

Huntingdon contains three operations where the Big House brand of products is made. There's a print shop for making hundreds of forms for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and other state agencies; a garment factory for making orange and gray jumpsuits and other clothing for inmates; and a soap factory for making many different types of bar soap, de-greasers, hand cleaners, laundry soap and other products.

About 265 of the 2,100 inmates at the all-male Huntingdon institution work in one of the in-house factories.

PCI is not a small-time operation, said Director Tony Miller, who oversees the products made at all 15 prisons. More than 1,500 inmates work through PCI, or about 3 percent of the system's 45,000 prisoners.

"Our mission is to teach inmates to work in Pennsylvania, to learn a work ethic," said Mr. Miller. [Mark Godsey]

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