Maryland’s most successful prison industry is meat, says the Baltimore Sun. The processing plant inside the walls of the Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown is staffed by about 75 inmates – including murderers sentenced to life behind bars – had $5.4 million in sales last year and helped state prison industries put $8 million into the state general fund in the past four years. Maryland inmates make bookshelves and upholstered furniture, American flags and picture frames, bathrobes, and cardboard boxes. It keeps them busy and teaches them skills they can use to get good-paying jobs when they are released.
The meat plant is one of the few places in prison where the use of knives is permitted, even required. Inmates wield long, curved blades to cut through slabs of meat, sharpening their edges on long steels as they go. It doesn’t matter what you did to land in this medium-security prison. Even violent offenders work here, as long as they have no history of violence on the inside. There have been no assaults since the plant opened in 1992, mostly because the jobs are coveted for good hours, good training and good money for prison (about $1.50 a day). There is a waiting list of hundreds of inmates, but officials don’t jam too many workers into the 12,000-square-foot space. The meat is sold only to state agencies and nonprofits. Prison industries may not compete with the private sector. Their biggest customers are inmates – the Division of Correction buys 80 percent of the meat processed here.