New York introduces prisoner-made hand sanitizer to fight coronavirus

New York is battling the coronavirus – and price gouging – with a germ-killing hand sanitizer produced by maximum-security prison inmates who work for less than 65 cents an hour.

“As the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus continues to rise, unscrupulous retailers are exploiting New Yorkers' anxieties about the virus, and charging exorbitant prices for hand sanitizer and other similar products,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday at a news conference where he unveiled the new product.

He said the inmate-produced “NYS Clean Hand Sanitizer” will be available to New York residents free of charge as well as to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates New York's subways and commuter railroads, to other state agencies and to New Rochelle, the Westchester County city that's been the epicenter of the state's coronavirus outbreak.

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The New York Post quoted Cuomo saying that “it’s much cheaper for us to make it ourselves than to buy it on the open market.” He said a gallon jug of the state-produced product costs $6 to make.

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But the Legal Aid Society, which represents indigent defendants, accused Cuomo of  “exploiting incarcerated New Yorkers to produce cheap hand sanitizers,” according to the Post.

“This is nothing less than slave labor and it must end,” the group said.

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The hand sanitizer is being produced at the Great Meadow Correctional Facility in upstate New York, which has the capacity to produce 100,000 gallons of hand sanitizer per week.

New York pays inmates less than 65 cents an hour, according to Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.