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Re: [GreenYes] Atwater Prison electronic recycling - Modesto Bee Article
I agree with Helen's comments.
One other point: I doesn't seem right to lump prison labor and handicapped labor into the same discussion.  They are different issues. 
Van Calvez
Human~Nature Solutions
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Thursday, January 03, 2002 9:46 AM
Subject: RE: [GreenYes] Atwater Prison electronic recycling - Modesto Bee Article

Atwater/UNICOR raises a cluster of interesting issues that others have touched on. Here's my read:
  • Prisoners (and handicapped) providing 'low cost' labour.
  • Companies brokering prisoners' labour for profit.
  • Recycling as a community/government responsibility.
  • Is producer responsibility 'largesse'?
  • Recycling as local economic development.
  • Dells and Compaqs setting up 'centralized infrastructure'
Prisoners (and handicapped) providing 'low cost' labour:
It makes sense that *work* be part of a prisoner's rehabilitation.
The work should be meaningful to optimize the rehabilitation benefits.
However, prisoner labour should not be traded in the marketplace.
It competes unfairly with non-prisoner labour, distorts labour market so that demand for prison labour increases (hence incentive to incarcerate people).
Prisoner/handicapped labour should be used for *work in public interest*, rather than for profit.
What's wrong with making license plates? maybe wildlife rescue? or even environmental monitoring?

Companies brokering prisoners' labour for profit
I don't like it: living off the avails
This is a much more fundamental issue than whether UNICOR's services are 'competitively priced'!

Recycling as *work in the public interest*
Here again is the traditional confusion over whether recycling is an activity carried out 'in public interest'.
It is not the public/community that benefits from recycling.
It is the Dells and Compaqs and their consumers who avoid responsibility by passing it on to the community.
Recycling, like other environmental requirements, should be part of the cost of doing business.
Would you like to Ford/Dell/Compaq use prison labour for its assembly lines? Safeway for its checkout lines?
Why should we tolerate using prison labour for recycling?
Recycling should be an extension of  marketing of products, not a public clean-up project.
When Dells and Compaqs have to figure out what to do with old computers, they will compete to provide best service for lowest cost (once the Green Dot monopoly is finally broken...)

Is producer responsibility 'largesse'?
Absolutely not! No more so than compliance with any other social/environmental standards.
Largesse is charity. The environment cannot be left as a charity case.
IMHO one of the things wrong with these times is that corporations are given the discretion on which environmental responsibility to take: hence, they throw PR dollars at America Recycles Day/Keep America Beautiful but fight deposit laws and EPR.
If they have this much $ to throw around, they should not complain about internalizing environmental/social costs now passed on to public.

Recycling as local economic development.
When it's public sector economic activity, this is false accounting.
Comparable to the growth in GDP that came from clean-up of Exxon Valdez...

Dells and Compaqs setting up 'centralized infrastructure'
If we can tolerate 'centralized infrastructure' (I think you mean ownership) for production, distribution and retailing, why are we suddenly resisting it for recycling?
IMHO, centralized ownership of any of these market activities is the problem.
If we want to be consistent we will question it in all areas, not just recycling.


At 10:41 AM 01/03/2002 -0600, David Wood wrote:

Ted should weigh in too, if he is able to, but the Computer TakeBack Campaign platform opposes prison labor because we want the infrastructure for electronics recycling to promote local economic development one of the historic benefits of recycling. In the same vein, though we want brand owners and manufacturers to take full responsibility for the life cycle of their products, we d prefer that the Dells and Compaqs of the world not control some centralized infrastructure but rather use their largesse to promote a more decentralized infrastructure with attendant local economic development benefits.


Additionally and I speak only for myself here moving industrial operations to America s prison system legitimates the backwards policies of three-strikes and mandatory minimum sentencing because we can then give those people jobs. Why not keep out of prison in work programs many of those whose crimes may not warrant incarceration, providing them job training in local economic development opportunities that are sustainably recycling our tidal wave of high tech trash (probably at lower labor costs, if they are trainees in a criminal justice program)?


David Wood


-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf Of Steen, Terri - Contractor
Sent: Thursday, January 03, 2002 8:37 AM
To: 'Ted Smith';
Subject: RE: [GreenYes] Atwater Prison electronic recycling - Modesto Bee Article


Hi Ted,

I read the article about the new computer recycling facility at the Federal prison, and checked out the UNICOR web site as well.  While admittedly short on statistical data, I assume since the project is not yet operational, the premise seems reasonable. 

I agree we need guidelines for sustainable recycling practices (and decorative clocks will probably not be high on that list), but labor costs are one of the biggest drawbacks to disassembly and sorting of electronics, right?  And prison labor & (pausing to collect thoughts) may be the best solution to that particular economic problem.  UNICOR provides a lot of support to the Federal government and as far as I know their products and services are competitively priced and of reasonable quality.  The government is obligated to use the services of disabled persons as well as prison labor, which helps keep costs down (and etc.). 

Which aspect of the project did you find alarming?  Is there more information available than that one rather short article?

Other comments or opinions out there?




-----Original Message-----
From: Ted Smith []
Sent: Wednesday, January 02, 2002 1:44 PM
Subject: [GreenYes] Atwater Prison electronic recycling - Modesto Bee Article


Here is an article about a new maximum security Federal Prison opening in California that some see as the "final solution" to computer recycling.  I find it rather alarming!  Another reason why we must develop guidelines for sustainable recycling practices.

Ted Smith

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