As concerns grow over the spread of the coronavirus, New York is turning to prison labor to help the state save money and meet demands amid a shortage of hand sanitizer.
“We’re introducing New York state clean hand sanitizer made conveniently by the state of New York,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday (March 9). “This is a superior product to products now on the market.”
According to USA Today, inmates are being paid as little as 16 cents an hour to make the hand sanitizer. The sanitizer will be dispersed for free to governmental agencies, schools, prisons (but not to prisoners as it is considered contraband), the MTA and more, especially in hotspots like New Rochelle, N.Y.
The state-branded sanitizer is being produced at Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock, Washington County through Corcraft a company that employs inmates in “substantive jobs that help teach good work ethic and valuable work skills.” Inmates working through Corcraft have produced a slew of products including cleaning supplies, pillows and mattress.
Cuomo also touted the sanitizer as being 75% alcohol instead of the typical 65%, and revealed plans to ramp up the current production capacity of 100,000 gallons per week. “You can’t get it on the market and when you get it it’s very, very expensive,” he said.
Included in Cuomo’s announcement was a warning to companies like Amazon and Purrell. “If you continue the price gouging we will introduce our product which is superior to your product.”
Naturally, the state’s decision earned criticism across the internet including from Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) who tweeted, “Wow considering that many incarcerated men and women are subjected to inhumane conditions, including no hand soap & hand sanitizer is banned in most prison, this is especially demeaning, ironic & exploitative.”
It costs the state $6.10 to make a gallon of hand sanitizer, $1.12 for a 7 oz. bottle and 84 cents for a 1.7 ounce bottle, Cuomo said. New York has at least 178 confirmed cases of coronavirus, the majority of which are in Westchester County.
Watch Cuomo’s announcement below.