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Published on December 9th, 2008 | by Ariel Schwartz

9

Company Hires Prison Inmates to Build Solar Modules

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December 9th, 2008 by  

solar panels

Great news! If you’re sent to the Federal Correctional Institution in Otisville, NY, you may have the opportunity to work in a solar module factory. Spire Corp. announced yesterday that it is putting $55 million towards the construction of a solar module factory at the Otisville prison.

Modules produced by the inmates in the turnkey photovoltaic factory will be used in government installations. If Spire’s venture is successful, it may be repeated in other prisons across the country.

Spire anticipates complaints from workers rights and environmental groups, but the company hopes that inmates will gain valuable training for solar industry jobs.

That, and Spire wants cheap, reliable labor.

Photo Credit: NREL

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About the Author

was formerly the editor of CleanTechnica and is a senior editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine, and more. A graduate of Vassar College, she has previously worked in publishing, organic farming, documentary film, and newspaper journalism. Her interests include permaculture, hiking, skiing, music, relocalization, and cob (the building material). She currently resides in San Francisco, CA.



  • Dan @ Survive Prison

    Pretty scary stuff…

  • Dan @ Survive Prison

    Pretty scary stuff…

  • Gerald Gallagher

    van jones redux! Some of the president’s greatest supporters have a federal address.Taking jobs from skilled,paid workers? Why not,it’s the new slavery. thank GOD this didn’t happen “down South”.The race pimp twins (jesse and al) havn’t rushed to the scene of this obvious “black” exploitation-why not? A little history-Mass. ended slavery when factories replaced workers with slaves(at a greatly reduced cost).The displaced workers then told the owners they would be killed if this persisted.That was the end of slave employment in Mass.. Oh,the owners sold the slaves to the Southern States(@ a profit!) and then condemned slavery! Are today’s yankees as smart as their ancestors? We’ll see.

  • George

    Didn’t they get rid of 80 employees so they could hire inmates? Didn’t that Van Jones @hole have something to do with that?

  • George

    Didn’t they get rid of 80 employees so they could hire inmates? Didn’t that Van Jones @hole have something to do with that?

  • chrisS

    I agree that it is BS, but not because prisoners can’t or shouldn’t work, but because it’s exploitative. Why are prisoners “reliable”? Because they can’t unionize, are compelled to work, and must work for below minimum wage.

    PS to the previous commenter: Wake up! There are 10x as many people in prison than there were 30 years ago, and the crime rate has stayed relatively constant. Prisons are a way of coping with the fact that there aren’t enough jobs to go around. Imagine what the unemployment rate would be if the 2 million prisoners were counted. And if they weren’t incarcerated, there would be even more discontent about the state of the economy.

  • chrisS

    I agree that it is BS, but not because prisoners can’t or shouldn’t work, but because it’s exploitative. Why are prisoners “reliable”? Because they can’t unionize, are compelled to work, and must work for below minimum wage.

    PS to the previous commenter: Wake up! There are 10x as many people in prison than there were 30 years ago, and the crime rate has stayed relatively constant. Prisons are a way of coping with the fact that there aren’t enough jobs to go around. Imagine what the unemployment rate would be if the 2 million prisoners were counted. And if they weren’t incarcerated, there would be even more discontent about the state of the economy.

  • chrisp

    This is BS! Why give green manufacturing jobs to inmates. Give them to hardworking Americans out of work. You might as well outsource them if you are going for cheap labor. At least then the workers won’t steal the panels or use the glass to slash the guards throat.

    This reminds me of the Shawshank Redemption. Money in the pie!

    Reliable Labor – Hello… they are inmates, how do you consider that reliable?

    Where can I send my letter of disapproval?

  • chrisp

    This is BS! Why give green manufacturing jobs to inmates. Give them to hardworking Americans out of work. You might as well outsource them if you are going for cheap labor. At least then the workers won’t steal the panels or use the glass to slash the guards throat.

    This reminds me of the Shawshank Redemption. Money in the pie!

    Reliable Labor – Hello… they are inmates, how do you consider that reliable?

    Where can I send my letter of disapproval?

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