New York state is using inmate labor to produce its own hand sanitizer, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a press conference Monday in which he also announced that the state's Port Authority director had contracted coronavirus.
The sanitizer is being made by Corcraft Products, which is the "brand name" for the Division of Correctional Industries in New York. Corcraft uses inmate labor to manufacture products ranging from metalworks to textiles to hygiene products — now including NYS Clean, the state-branded hand sanitizer.
Cuomo boasted that the new sanitizer is superior to other products on the market to its 75% alcohol content and its "floral bouquet" scent. Other popular brands, such as Purell, offer a 70% alcohol content. The Centers for Disease Control recommends using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content.
According to the Gothamist, New York prisoners earn between 16 cents and $1.14 an hour for their labor, with the average inmate making $1,092 per year. In contrast, New York state minimum wage ranges from $15 an hour in New York City to $11.80 an hour in the upstate.
"It's much cheaper for us to make it ourselves than to buy it on the open market," Cuomo said while announcing the prices for the state-branded product; which are $1.12 for a 7oz bottle and $6.10 for one gallon supply.
The governor also said they are currently able to make about 100,000 gallons of the sanitizer a week. But he added that operations will be "ramping up" in order to provide the product to governmental agencies, schools, prisons, and other related organizations that "can't get it on the market" due to price gouging.
Amid the coronavirus outbreak, supplies of hand sanitizer have been running low and suppliers are struggling to keep up. CBS News recently reported that demand for sanitizer is up 1,400%. The rising demand has led to a sharp increase in price for the commodity."
Cuomo took aim at major retailers of the commodity, such as Purell, eBay, and Amazon, during the presser.
"To Purell, and Mr. Amazon, and Mr. eBay, if you continue the price gouging, we will introduce our product [to the market], which is superior to your product," Cuomo said. "And you don't even have the floral bouquet, so stop price gouging."