1. June 2010 22:24
I recently had the pleasure of spending some time with the management of Prison Blues and Oregon Corrections Enterprises. These are the people who are responsible for one of the most innovative prison programs I've ever seen. I'd like to take a moment to share some of the history of Prison Blues and my impressions of the overall enterprise.
Prison Blues started with two ingredients: 1. A federal government grant funded by drug money seizures, and 2. A plan to defray incarceration costs. Mindful of the impact prison industries have on private sector businesses, the State of Oregon conducted a thorough study to establish a viable product for production. The conclusion was that Oregon's manufacturers would not suffer from a prison garment industry. The factory was created in 1989 to manufacture blue jeans, yard coats, work shirts, and T-shirts for inmates. The factory is run as closely as possible to one on the outside, though with higher security issues. The environment is bright and energetic, designed to maximize productivity, and the workers appreciate the time they spend at work.
Prison Blues is the most highly sought job at Pendleton Prison. The inmates earn a prevailing industry wage and they keep around 20% of what they earn. They pay taxes and are eligible to earn bonus incentives for quality and productivity. Like the private sector, inmates are expected to pay their own way with their earnings. Eighty percent is withheld from their earnings to pay for their own incarceration costs, victim restitution, family support, and state and federal wage taxes. This significantly reduces the burden on taxpayers. Inmates can use their earnings for voluntary family support, to buy items at the prison canteen, or for deposit in a savings account available to them upon their release. As you might imagine, all of these factors have a very positive effect on one of America's biggest rehabilitation problems: recidivism (reincarceration after release). I can tell you first-hand that the clothes made by the inmates of this Oregon Prison, are some of the most durable you will ever lay your hands on.
I think it's safe to say that the people running the Prison Blues enterprise are more interested in rehabilitation than they are making windfall profits. I personally applaud their efforts and urge you to give this line of quality USA made clothing a try. Considering the current state of affairs here in California, I'd be very surprised if our Governator wasn't knocking on their door asking for advice. Find out more about Prison Blues by visiting their website.