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New York’s solution to hand sanitizer shortage: Prison labor

By Jon Campbell March 10, 2020

What do you do when fear over the new coronavirus leads to a shortage of hand sanitizer?

If you’re the state of New York, you make it yourself. Or rather, you have your prisoners do it.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday the state had begun producing its own line of hand sanitizer, known as NYS Clean. The state will distribute the products to schools, local governments, prisons and other public entities free of charge.

The low price of making the sanitizer in house — $6.10 a gallon — will allow the state and local governments to save big, particularly when a coronavirus-fueled run on the product has led to rising prices if you’re even able to find it at all.

But it’s the way the state is containing its costs that has some lawmakers and advocacy groups alarmed: By paying prisoners as little as 16 cents an hour to make it.

“There is price gouging happening across the state and we are in a public-health crisis, so I do applaud the governor for acting very quickly,” said Sen. Zellnor Myrie, D-Brooklyn. “But I am incredibly concerned that we’re using a company that pays its workers sweat-shop wages.”

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