I was relieved — it was made in Green Bay, Wisconsin, not by slave labor from MINNCOR, the Minnesota Department of Corrections. It seems that $700,000 worth of dorm and office furniture for the University of Minnesota is purchased from MINNCOR, but the money is not going to the inmates/workers.
While most inmates languish making less than $1 an hour, public records indicate that Minnesota Department of Corrections executives, including those at MINNCOR, made over $100,000 per year in fiscal year 2015-16. MINNCOR CEO David Milton made $58 an hour, approximately $120,000 per year starting in February 2016. Despite numerous lengthy, in-person conversations Milton declined to speak on the record for this article. Milton and his executive team lease inmate labor to private companies, government entities and nonprofits and manage the prison canteen system – the internal grocery and convenience store for inmates. MINNCOR’s overall sales revenue has expanded to $44 million for 2015 alone, with profits going to the DOC general fund and MINNCOR’s budget.
They’re paid a pittance, and the only place they have to spend that pittance is the company store.
That same year, the state’s disparate canteen systems were consolidated under MINNCOR. 2003 was also the first time that MINNCOR was profitable. Annual profits for 2003 totaled $100,000, jumping to $2.5 million in 2004. Writing in the Stillwater’s prison-produced and award-winning newspaper, Prison Mirror, investigative journalist and inmate Matt Gretz explained that when MINNCOR consolidated the canteen the expectation from inmates was that bulk purchases would cause prices to go down. Instead, canteen prices increased.
Centralization allowed the state to dip more easily into MINNCOR profits as budget cuts abound – putting more pressure on MINNCOR to generate profits. According to annual reports in 2008, canteen sales were 18 percent of MINNCOR’s revenue. By 2014 canteen sales amounted to $10.9 million, almost 25 percent of overall sales revenue for MINNCOR. This means that the single largest portion of money that MINNCOR earns comes from taxing the low wages that the organization pays inmates. After MINNCOR deducts up to 80 percent of an inmate worker’s pay for everything from the cost of confinement to victim restitution and medical co-pays, the little that is left of an inmate’s paycheck often goes to the canteen.
Like I said…slaves.
I wouldn’t boycott MINNCOR, though, since we shouldn’t punish the inmates, but I would think it only fair to arrest and imprison MINNCOR executives for corruption, and put them to work making chairs. I’d buy those.