icon bookmark-bicon bookmarkicon cameraicon checkicon chevron downicon chevron lefticon chevron righticon chevron upicon closeicon v-compressicon downloadicon editicon v-expandicon fbicon fileicon filtericon flag ruicon full chevron downicon full chevron lefticon full chevron righticon full chevron upicon gpicon insicon mailicon moveicon-musicicon mutedicon nomutedicon okicon v-pauseicon v-playicon searchicon shareicon sign inicon sign upicon stepbackicon stepforicon swipe downicon tagicon tagsicon tgicon trashicon twicon vkicon yticon wticon fm
9 Mar, 2020 21:11

Cuomo unveils New York-made hand sanitizer...made by prison ‘slave labor’ not allowed to use it themselves

Cuomo unveils New York-made hand sanitizer...made by prison ‘slave labor’ not allowed to use it themselves

New York’s governor has put prison inmates to work making gallons of hand sanitizer to combat alleged “price gouging” by mass-market brands, but what many see as slave labor doesn’t quite square with the state’s progressive image.

Andrew Cuomo debuted a state-branded hand sanitizer in a showy press conference on Monday, touting the prison-made formula as a way to fight skyrocketing prices on the dwindling supplies of mass-market hand sanitizer flying off the shelves. After pretending to solicit solutions from his audience, the second-generation statesman staged a cheesy curtain-opening reveal on an eye-catching display of multiple size bottles of ‘New York State Clean’. 

Channeling an Amway pitchman crossed with a plantation overseer, Cuomo presented NYS Clean as a “superior product” to Purell and its brethren. Unlike those mass-market brands, which contain the Centers for Disease Control’s recommended 60 percent alcohol, New York’s contains 70 percent – plus a nose-pleasing “floral bouquet,” he said. But Cuomo tellingly downplayed the “prison labor” component, merely mentioning the brand – Corcraft – as one that also makes glass cleaner, floor cleaner, degreasers, laundry detergent, vehicle fluids, hand cleaner, “and now they make hand sanitizer.”

The prisoners, who receive approximately 16 to 65 cents per hour for their labor, have apparently been busy churning out the vital fluid: Cuomo said that current capacity is 100,000 gallons per week, and that they’d be “ramping up,” providing the liquid to government agencies, schools, prisons, and the like “because you can’t get it on the market, and when you get it it’s very, very expensive.

Also on rt.com Does labor in US prisons amount to modern day slavery? RT’s Boom Bust investigates

To Purell and Mr. Amazon and Mr. eBay, if you continue the price gouging we’ll introduce our product which is superior to your product, and you don’t even have the floral bouquet! So stop price gouging,” the governor said, trying to squeeze some laughs out of the situation. “This is also much less expensive than anything government could buy,” he added, explaining that it’s “much cheaper for us to make it ourselves than to buy it on the open market.” Cuomo thanked Corcraft for their good work – not that the prisoners had a choice.

A coalition of prisoners rights advocacy groups slammed the move. “We are disgusted at Governor Cuomo’s decision to exploit prison labor to push back the imminent public health crisis presented by Covid-19 while doing absolutely nothing for incarcerated people across the state,” they said in a statement.

Twitter wasn’t fooled by the governor’s efforts to dance around the topic of what was essentially prison slave labor. The whole project represented a “layer of dystopian hell,” one user tweeted.

Some clarified that despite making the product for pennies on the dollar, inmates in some prisons are barred from actually using it – the alcohol used to manufacture the liquid is considered contraband, and many prisoners have limited access to any kind of hygiene products.

Others noted that coronavirus had exposed more than a few cracks in the state’s progressive facade.

And some pointed out that if China – or even President Donald Trump – had announced a similar initiative, they’d be pilloried in the media.

Though some managed to find a silver lining – at least making hand sanitizer was better than phone-banking for billionaire Democratic candidate Mike Bloomberg, who as mayor likely oversaw the imprisonment of many of the inmates who ended up making campaign phone calls for him.

And it sure beats digging mass graves – another project convicts may find themselves assigned to if coronavirus deaths overwhelm the systems currently in place to store and dispose of infected corpses. 

If you like this story, share it with a friend!