Polo, Anamosa prison come together on employment

Board of Supervisors
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     A joint Anamosa State Penitentiary and Polo Custom Products inmate project is in the works for the near future.

     During the Oct. 10 Jones County Supervisor meeting, representatives from the prison (Warden Bill Sperfslage and Prison Industries Director Dan Clark) and Dan Zwack with Polo Custom Products explained the process involved in making this collaboration happen.

     Clark said the hope is to begin this inmate-employment project by the first of November.

     While action by the Board of Supervisors is not required for a proposal like this, Clark said they just wanted to make sure the county was aware of it.

     “This is the first of its kind in Jones County,” Clark said of the prison partnering with an outside business/industry to allow for employment by the inmates.

     “Normally we’re not allowed to work for private companies,” he said. In the past, though, the Anamosa prison has done work for the City of Anamosa and Jones County.

     Clark said this program, titled PIE (Prison Industries Enhancement), brings the industry’s (Polo) work inside the prison walls where the minimal security inmates will perform the work.

     “We have a lot of talent here,” he said of the inmates’ abilities. “This allows us to work for private companies, almost like work release.”

     He said PIE was previously approved by the State of Iowa and the federal government.

     Clark further explained that PIE works well for both the prison and Polo because Polo is able to demonstrate that they have been unable to hire civilian employees.

     “It has been difficult to hire people,” said Zwack, “especially in manufacturing. We need more people to fulfill our contracts.” He said Polo is roughly down about 20 employees, with many now working overtime to fulfill the orders.

     Clark said PIE would also benefit taxpayers. Here’s how: Inmates will be paid “civil-type wages” to perform the work for Polo. By law, they can only keep 20 percent of those wages. Clark said 80 percent goes to the state and federal government for taxes, victim restitution, and any debts the inmate has, as well as the costs associated with incarceration.

     “This will then prepare these inmates when they get out and become regular citizens again,” said Clark. “They’ll gain the basic skills they need.”

     Zwack explained that Polo would send the project materials and equipment to the prison. The inmates would assemble the work and it would be sent back to Polo.

     “This program has been very successful in other minimum security facilities,” shared Clark.

     Zwack said they would look to initially hire 10 inmates to start with.

     “There is a long list of inmates who want this type of work,” said Clark versus in-house prison jobs.

     Sperfslage said in the prison world of employment, work like this is seen as a privilege, not a punishment.

     “They have to be well behaved and up on their education,” he said. “This sets them up for success to re-enter the community.

     “We try to make it a normative environment inside those walls.”

     Zwack said the idea is to have the inmates take on assembly work.

     “They will have to clock in and out every work day,” assured Sperfslage.


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