Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
The Iowa Prison Industries is looking to bring a new company to the Mt. Pleasant Correctional Facility. Winegard out of Burlington will be operating inside the Industries Building and employing approximately 10 minimal security inmates.
Wingard Company focuses on designing and manufacturing advanced antenna communications and connectivity solutions. Inmates participating in the program will be helping with the manufacturing of products.
“The program has worked real well around the state,” Prison Industries Director Dan Clark said. “People that are incarcerated need work, and this program has been a help in opening up a new channel for employers to connect to people.
“It’s not unusual for employers to reach out for inmate employment,” he said. “I’m getting more phone calls from employers now than before the pandemic, and it seems that right now in Southeast Iowa, they’re struggling to find people to staff factories.”
Employees under the program will be able to earn civilian wages and keep 20 percent of the wage with 80 percent going to taxes and restitution. Compared to working in the kitchen or the gardens of the correctional facilities and earning 50 or 60 cents an hour, this wage increase is an upgrade for the inmates in the program.
“For an incarcerated person, it’s by far the best work opportunity that we have,” Clark said. “Through this program, men and women have paid off hundreds of thousands of dollars in restitution that they owe. Instead of coming out of prison owing a lot of money, they have an opportunity to pay some of that down before they leave.
“We’ll also train the men in this program with other preparation skills, so that when they get released, they are more able to get a job, get back on the right path, get some money, and have a resume that says, ’Yeah, I worked for this company while incarcerated.’”
The Mt. Pleasant Correctional Facility is in support of the program.
“It’s good labor for the town to have those folks,” Mt. Pleasant Correctional Facility Warden Jay Nelson said. “For us, there’s a lot of benefits, but those guys are all going to the community and if we can give them the work skills and getting use to that responsibility, its good for everybody.”
“I agree,” Henry County Supervisor Chad White said. “Rather that sitting all day and watching Oprah or lifting weights, I’d rather see them learn a skill.”
Iowa Prison Industries will move forward with the partnership with Winegard, but at this time there is no set starting date.