New York State is Using Prison Labor to Produce Hand Sanitizer to Combat Coronavirus
The production is in response to shortages in local facilities.
On Monday morning, New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced the state will rely on state prisoners to produce hand sanitizer for state facilities. The increase in production stems from shortages in response to recent coronavirus outbreaks across the country.
"We're hearing from local governments that acquiring hand sanitizer has been a real problem," Cuomo tweeted. "NYS will immediately begin producing hand sanitizer ourselves--100,000 gallons per week."
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Inmates at Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Washington County will produce the sanitizer. According to Business Insider, the product, NYS Clean, costs $6 to manufacture. The state-produced sanitizer will contain 75% alcohol, compared to the typical %60 in store-brand.
Consumers recently reported examples of price-gouging in stores amidst the nation's panicked response. During a press conference, Cuomo said the sanitizer will be available on eBay and Amazon if price gouging continues. He called gouging an "egregious issue," and also addressed procedures for school closings and a potential bill for employee paid sick leave. Stream the press conference on Periscope.
Government officials will give the hand sanitizer to schools, prisons, government agencies, and the MTA.
According to a Gothamist report, New York's average wages for prison inmates were around 65 cents per hour in 2015. A New York Department of Corrections spokesman pointed out that some inmates can receive merit bonuses that bring their total wages to a whopping $1.30 an hour. Many activists have pointed out that prison populations are extremely vulnerable to health issues like the coronavirus.