Although Cuomo said he intends that the product remain off the market and be provided to schools, governmental agencies, and prisons, he isn’t opposed to changing that in an effort to stop companies from continuing to drive up the cost of hand sanitizer. “Also to Purell, and Mr. Amazon and Mr. eBay, if you continue the price gouging, we will introduce our product which is superior to your product,” he said, “and you don’t even have the flower bouquet,” referring to the hand sanitizer’s floral scent. “So stop price gouging,” he said, in a final word to the companies.
Releasing Aging People in Prison Campaign, a nonprofit created to fight to end mass incarceration, described the governor’s move as exploitive in a joint statement released Monday with other advocacy groups. "We are disgusted at Governor Cuomo's decision to exploit prison labor to push back the imminent public health crisis presented by COVID-19 while doing absolutely nothing for incarcerated people across the state," the statement read.
The Releasing Aging People in Prison Campaign pointed to the governor’s efforts to block the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act, a measure to limit the use of solitary confinement in prisons, as evidence of Cuomo’s lack of action. Meanwhile, it’s prisoners who could help make a product to curb the spread of the coronavirus. "The sacrifices made by people in prison to manufacture this product -- at wages below $1 per hour -- will be a significant factor in slowing down the spread of the outbreak," the organization said.
Cuomo, however, only gave them a mention in passing. “And I want to thank Kelly Companies who got this going and Corcraft very much for their good work,” he said during the press conference. Corcraft is the brand name of the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision’s product-manufacturing program, according to its website. Cuomo did find the time to brag about the low cost of the hand sanitizer, at $6.10 a gallon. "So it's much cheaper for us to make it ourselves than to buy it on the open market," he said. I bet it is.
Attorneys Tina Luongo and Adriene Holder of The Legal Aid Society issued a joint statement calling the prison production of hand sanitizer “slave labor.” “From fighting dangerous forest fires to now mass producing vital hand sanitizer, government and big business continue to force the labor of incarcerated individuals – for pennies on the dollar – for a political purpose or to line their own pockets,” the attorneys said. “Incarcerated people in New York have always been forced to produce essential products for state agencies.” The attorneys said that often the inmates work for less than a dollar a day “under threat of punishment –including solitary confinement – if they refuse.” “This is nothing less than slave labor and it must end,” Luongo and Holder said. “Albany must pay these individuals the minimum wage and lawmakers must legislate to eradicate forced labor across our state for good.”