With a lack of critical supplies and factories not able to work at full capacity to meet the demands of a world in a pandemic, governments are looking for alternative solutions. Especially their skilled prison populations.
Prisons around the world vary drastically, but many countries do utilize imprisoned populations as a labor force. Some governments see it as skill and character development, even paying small sums, while other governments force prisoners to work.
New York correctional facilities increase production
New York prisoners were making 200 to 250 pine wood coffins per week. With the increased demand, due to the coronavirus, the Correctional Facility, in Dutchess County, has increased production 700% now creating 1,400 coffins per week.
The Dutchess County Correctional Facility has been producing coffins Since 2008, mainly for use internally by the prison system. However, on a rare occasion the coffins have been sold to external parties.
Correctional facilities Prisoners in New York make a range of products such as furniture, license plates, clothing and beds. The products are sold under the brand name Corcraft, and the company has generated over $50 million in annual revenue. The prisoners also receive a small payment for the work.
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced last month that prisoners will be helping in the production of extra hand sanitizer in a battle against the coronavirus. Prisoners have also made over 270,000 non-surgical masks that meet most specifications for the N95 level of protection.
Ecuador prisoners assist in coffin shortage
In Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city, a heavy coronavirus outbreak caused a serious shortage of coffins, starting in early April. Since then hundreds of prisoners were put to work to build coffins.
The wood used for the coffins was seized by environmental authorities in a battle against deforestation. The Minister of the Environment Ministry, Juan DeHowitt, stated; “The Environment Ministry is donating seized wood, which would have gone towards other purposes for a noble cause: Giving a wooden coffin to families who have lost a loved one.”
Effective, but controversial
The world community is divided on whether it is right or wrong to have prisoners perform labor, but the fact remains that during this crisis governments around the world are utilizing prisoners to give back to the community in these dyre times.