Get Gephardt | Stories - Prison Inmate Work-Program Competes With Private Business
Tuesday, June 18 2013, 09:14 AM MDT
Prison Inmate Work-Program Competes With Private Business
By Matt Gephardt
Produced by Michelle Poe
Edited by Aaron Colborn
Photography by Brian Morris and Mike Sadowski
(KUTV) At Creative Expressions in Murray, dozens of people are employed to create and distribute custom printed, sewn and embroidered clothing. The business began more than 30 years ago in owner Hydee Willis’ garage. Her business has grown now and in her decades of experience Hydee knows how to manage the professional hurdles. But now Hydee says she is facing a challenge with which no small business owner can compete: the Utah State Prison fighting her for customers.

Hydee says the prison competing for business first came to her attention when she saw a February flyer from Utah Correctional Industries (U.C.I.). The flyer advertises that U.C.I. can do all of the work currently done by Hydee's employees using inmate labor.

Hydee says that she and her colleagues fear that if the prison can do the work with inmate labor than it will cost people jobs.

“We could just fire all of our employees and send it all out there. It would be cheaper," Hydee said.

Hydee says U.C.I. has unfair advantages. “The prison has a lot of benefits. They have an unlimited work force. They don't have a lot of people calling in on sick days and showing up late."

Worried about the future for herself and her employees, Hydee asked Get Gephardt to investigate.

Utah Correctional Industries is a state agency that puts inmates to work doing all sorts of different jobs. The skills the inmates learn behind bars can help them obtain jobs when they are released. It's not slave labor. Inmates are paid a wage close to minimum wage. The work is traditionally done for government agencies to save tax payers money not for businesses.

That is a point that U.C.I.'s website once made clear. As of last month, it read, U.C.I. is "not in competition with local businesses in the state of Utah for private sector funds." Now that line has disappeared. It was erased from the website just one week after Get Gephardt first contacted the Utah Department of Corrections requesting information about U.C.I.

A public records request revealed that U.C.I. averages $258,667 private-sector dollars a year just from the sewing, printing and embroidering divisions of U.C.I. Utah Department of Corrections spokesperson Steve Gehrke says that number includes $231,467 that comes from working for businesses outside of Utah.

Gehrke said the letter Hydee received never should have been sent out. He points out that U.C.I. legally has the right to do work for private business but they have what he calls a "gentleman's agreement" not to go out and advertise that fact.

“We don't want to go out there and say, look we're better than ‘X’ company we can do it for cheaper, we can do it better, things like that. That's what we avoid doing," He said.

U.C.I.'s furniture catalog however does advertise in that way. It reads, "Because we utilize offender labor, our prices ... are below that of our competition." Gehrke says that the catalog is not sent to the public but rather to taxpayer-funded groups with which U.C.I. does prefer to do business.

"What we are doing is passing on a savings to like the cities and [the Utah Transit Authority], and to state agencies that function off tax payer dollars," Gehrke said.

On the contrary, U.C.I. does target private business on their website. It reads that U.C.I is available to do embroidery work for anyone that has a "work event," "community service project," "school event," or even "a smaller event like a family reunion."

Gehrke relented that perhaps those phrases should not appear in the U.C.I. website, but he maintains that Utah Correctional Industries is allowed to do work for anybody under state law.

“It's not our job to change state law," he said.

On February 1, 2013, lawmakers met to discuss U.C.I. in a subcommittee meeting. Acting Department of Corrections Director Mike Haddon said on the record that U.C.I. is “not really allowed to do competition with the private sector."

His was a sentiment echoed by subcommittee co-chair, state senator Daniel Thatcher.

“Understand that U.C.I. can only do work for state agencies,” he said. "U.C.I. does not compete with private business."

Get Gephardt contacted Senator Thatcher who said when he made those comments in the subcommittee meeting he believed that what he was saying was true and he has since been corrected. He does say that he is concerned any private sector funds are going to U.C.I. However, Senator Thatcher says that “U.C.I. is not getting enough work from state agencies.” He says that a lot of state work that should be going to U.C.I. by statute is being given to the private sector and that prevents U.C.I. from hiring/rehabilitating enough inmates. Thatcher says U.C.I. currently employs roughly 100 inmates when 500 would be employed if U.C.I. got all more government work.

As for Hydee, she says she just wants U.C.I. to stick to their original promises and not take private business to the prison.

“Why should they be taking business away from the local community?" she asked.

(Copyright 2013 Sinclair Broadcasting Group)

Prison Inmate Work-Program Competes With Private Business

News Photos & Videos - Submit Your Photos Here

More Gephardt Stories

Fine Print Reveals a Company is Behind Tax Lien Notices
Computer Scam Alert, Congress Weighs In On E-Cigs and Beef at an All-Time High
Good question: What's the figure eight printed on globes?
Amazon Offers Employees $5,000 to Quit, Most Common I.R.S. Mistakes and Flyers in February Arrive Late
Chimney Sweep Folds with Consumer's Deposit
Heartland Virus Threat, I.R.S. Fields Your Calls and the Big Mac Budget Demonstration
XP Support Gone. What Now?
"Or your money back" Offer not Honored
Get Gephardt: Man Lands in Collections Despite Fully Paid Utility Bills
Good Question: How Were the Aquarium Fish Safely Moved?
GM Wins Crash Test Honors, FTC Cracks Down On Weight-loss Claims and CVS In Hot Water
Two Utah Men Brought Up On Tax Fraud Charges
Home Automation Failures Frustrate Customer
Yahoo Increases Email Security, SLC Marathon Set For April and Microsoft Introduces Its Siri
Wendover Casino Blocks Handicapped Stalls for Promotional Giveaway
New Scam Alert, Chrysler Recall and Amazon Joins the TV Market
Good Question: How do Taxpayers avoid being audited by the IRS?
If the IRS is Unresponsive, Try the Taxpayer Advocate
Mudslide Scammer Alert, Nissan Recall and New Trader Joe's Location in Salt Lake County
Insurance Mix Up Keeps Woman From Lifesaving Meds
E-Book Refund, College Tuition Increases and Unclaimed Tax Returns
Billing Bundle Bungled
Flood Insurance Increases, IRS Cash Crunch and Possible Apple & Comcast Partnership
Good Question: How is the Moment Spring Starts Determined?
Defiance May Soon Pay Off for Couple Fined Over Negative Comments
PS4 Announces VR Headset, Google Makes Smartwatches and 2010 Tax Returns Still Available
GM Spokesperson: Loaners, Rentals Available to 1.6 Million Drivers Impacted by Recall
Google Wins Viacom Lawsuit, Walmart Wants Used Games and Microsoft's Stock Surges
Fake IRS Auditors Attempt to Rip Off Taxpayers
Retailers Asked to Stop Selling Tobacco, NYC Requires Sick Time and New Expiration Date Labels
Good Question: Are E-Cigarette Commercials Legal?
Low Utah Unemployment Rate, Graco Recall Expanded and High Tax Return Average
ACA Marketplace Confusion Leaves Adults Signed Up for Pediatric Dental Care
Target Continues Damage Control, Staples Closing Locations and Facebook Blocks Gun Advertisements
Popular Provo Road-Race Organizer Stiffs Winners
Gov. Gets Wiretap Bill from Sprint, Guns Are Selling Well and F.T.C. Cracks Down
Fur Coat Storage Company Vanishes with Several Expensive Coats
Utah Benefits From Reopening Parks, RadioShack Closing Locations, EPA Regulations and Potential ATM Hacking
Semi-Pro Football Players Question the Disappearance of League Fees
Drought Affects Grocery Prices, Free Checking Disappears and Bill Gates On Top Again
Good Question: "How Do Search Engines Determine Search Result Orders?"
Airlines Cut Bereavement Fares, Internet Usage Goes Mobile and Wells Fargo Cuts Jobs
Stolen Debit Card Used at Days after Victim Shops at Target
Delta Changes Frequent Fliers Program, Sprint in Trouble over Nude Pictures and Min Wage Battle Continues
California Scheme Leaves Utahn, National Hispanics out Hundreds
Target Breach TimeLine, Facebook Email Says Goodbye and House Prices on the Rise
Lifetime Warranty Abruptly Cancelled
Taco Bell Breakfast, Disney Resort Price Increase and New Alumni Tracking Software
Man Injured At Amusement Park Awaits Damages
Credit Restored for Consumer Fined for Negative Online Review
Postal Service Issues, Hot Pocket Recall and Netflix vs. Verizon
Ex-Federal Worker: Someone Forged My Official Gov. Documents
Alarm Customer Moves But Cannot Cancel Service
Improving Medication Information, Groupon Deal and I.R.S. Tax Update
Good question: How are KUTV Contest Winners Selected?
Canceled Flights Cost Big, Tax Refund Spending and Valentines' Day Gift Estimates
Dish Placement Makes TV Service Sketchy
GM Recall, Facebook's Privacy Policy Questioned and Comcast Merges With Time Warner
Automobile Software Recall, Amazon Is Hiring and Ogden Receives Retirement Honors
Legally Married Man-and-Wife Fight for Marital Insurance Rights
Advertise with us!


Advertise with us!