Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Wed Jun 6 10:41:32 MDT 2001

NY Times, June 6, 2001

Management: Behind Bars and on the Clock


PENDLETON, Ore. - The workday begins on a patch of black asphalt ringed by
razor-wire fence. This is where more than 200 inmates of the Eastern Oregon
Correctional Institution line up at 7:45 on weekdays. They are clad in blue
jeans and inspected like cattle by men with pistols and crew cuts and gray
uniforms. Their names are called out, their bodies frisked.

Fifty of them march into a yellow concrete factory building the size of a
hangar and punch a time clock. Inside, they are no longer "on the inside."
Inside, they are the hired hands of John Borchert. "I hope you enjoy your
stay," he tells them at the door.

Mr. Borchert is the general manager of the Array Corporation, a private
company with $2 million in annual revenue that employs inmates primarily to
make garments. The factory churns out 50,000 pieces of clothing a year,
most of them jeans and work shirts. Half are bought by the state to clothe
prisoners. The rest are sold in retail stores under the brand Prison Blues
and using the slogan, "Made on the inside to be worn on the outside."

Mr. Borchert and his floor managers, Tom Wise and Nick Hiatt, walk around
the bright 40,000-square-foot factory as they would in any plant. There are
no guards, even though workers are serving time for the entire range of
felonies, from stabbing friends to raping children to burning down houses.
Many even wield razor knives and electric drills.

"We try to run it as much like a business as possible," Mr. Borchert, 39,
said above the din of sewing machines. "That's important for the mental
environment of the workers. It becomes an escape for them. I guess escape
is a bad word. It becomes a release for them."

But Mr. Borchert and his colleagues do have to approach many standard
management issues like staff motivation and training new hires from an
unusual perspective. After all, they are supervising what is arguably the
least traditional work force in America. It is also one of the fastest
growing. About 85,000 of this country's 1.3 million inmates in federal and
state prisons hold a job, including 3,500 in a federal program where they
make products for private companies for interstate sale. That is up from
1,000 five years ago.


Louis Proyect
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