Inmate rights groups protest use of prison labor for state's new hand sanitizer

Mar 11, 2020

This week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the state is now making New York Clean, a hand sanitizer, in the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak and sanitizer shortages that have developed. But prisoners' rights advocates gathered in Albany Tuesday to criticize the use of inmate labor in making the product.

Former inmate Roger Clark was part of the protest at the state Capitol, criticizing the governor.

"Being a person that's been incarcerated, I've been in those industrial complex," Clark said. "It is wrong for New York State to have prisoners do those types of labor, because theyre getting paid slave wages. It is time for New York to actually, um, to abolish the 13th amendment and give them the wages they're required to get."

The inmates are paid $.65 an hour or less for their work.

"It was ridulous. We felt horrible, I mean, to be incarerated making less than a quarter," Clark said. "Sometimes the officers would make fun of us and they would a put a cup and they would label it "401K" and they would put a penny in the cup, you know, to try to dehumanize us even more. You know like, saying that that's our 401K, one penny. That was terrible."

The 75% alcohol sanitizer will be distributed at no cost to government agencies, schools, prisons and other locations.