Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle is asking a legislative committee to kill a 9-year-old, money-losing initiative to allow companies to set up shop behind prison walls, reports the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “I believe there’s no interest in putting a private-sector venture inside prisons,” said Department of Corrections spokesman Bill Clausius. In 1995, then-Gov. Tommy Thompson, lawmakers, and prison officials devised a plan to help a few private businesses hire from the more-than-ample supply of men and women behind bars with nothing but time on their hands.
Now the state is out nearly $1.4 million, and staff are asking permission to move cash out of a profitable enterprise to cover the loss. The first company to hire felons was Fabry Glove and Mitten Co., a firm run by a friend and contributor to Thompson. The state, in effect, gave the company a below-prime rate loan of $314,000 and purchased many of the supplies to run the factory inside a maximum-security prison. Fabry hired as many as 100 prisoners, paying them $5 to $6.25 an hour to cut and sew gloves, with much of the money going back to the state for room and board. The program was controversial, with competitors, unions, and Democratic legislators yelling about unfair competition and sweetheart deals.