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IN DOC Offenders recycle plastic by the ton
By Tom Patterson, Caseworker, Westville Correctional Facility
Published: 09/19/2011

PEN Product is the prison industries branch of the Indiana Department of Correction. PEN Products offenders working at the Westville Correctional Facility separate plastic, usually CDs and DVDs, at a rate of 40 thousand pounds per week. Forman Supervisor Rob Wright said the material is shipped in by the truck load and is often “overstock,” sometime all the same DVD movie or CD.

Offenders pull the disks from their storage cases or sleeves and separate the different types of plastic, all to be ground up and sent back to manufacturers who make more plastic products. DVDs are metalized polycarbonate, different from other plastic, according to Wright. The work is ongoing and PEN runs two six-hour shifts of fifty offenders each, five days a week on the separation task.

The jobs are recognized by the United States Department of Labor and offenders receive certification after completing around 2000 hours. The pay scale is 35 cents an hour. “You may be drinking from a plastic cup that came through this process,” Wright said. Standing near his office upstairs that overlooked 100 giant cardboard containers each holding 150 pounds of CD or DVD plastic, the foreman said PEN has been in operation nearly a century and teaches a skill set and work ethic. “They leave here better able to return to society.”


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