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    The prison system and corporate America: a comparison made only when the Madoff's of the world peak media attention. In business however, when a new initiative or product is introduced and consumers fail to adopt the concept, executives are left with one option: eliminate the program. When McDonald's introduced tacos to their menu, loyal customers continued to order Big Mac's. When the National Hockey League introduced the glowing puck to help viewers identify the little black projectile, audiences complained. Similarly, excluding the glowing puck, Michigan's Bureau of Correction Industries developed a program allowing prisoners to produce furniture, vinyl and food products. A recent audit on the program detailed a loss of $7 million in the past four years. Laced with both ‘pros' and ‘cons', the issue of such financial loss in an already slumping economy places the operation high on the chopping block as budget reviews approach the legislature.

    The audit reports the program is not designed to reap maximum profits. It is, however, supposed to be financially self-sufficient. High costs, including supervising, materials and other assets burden the revenue stream. The audit reports that potential revenue is possible. "The only profitable year was that when the state changed its vehicle license plates, thus forcing motorists had to update their plates" (www.gongwer.com/prgramming/news.cfm).

    .

    Despite financial setbacks and pessimism about wasted money on prisoners, several advantages have been identified regarding the program. According to Michigan.gov, Michigan State Industries (MSI), provides an opportunity for prisoners to learn marketable skills and to acquire sound work experience. The study explains that many prisoners lacked a parental figure who encouraged a productive work ethic. Although the program is hemorrhaging state money similar to a 10 year old at an American Girl Doll store, prisoners are finally able to learn about legal ways to perform hard work to make money. Such employment has been linked to a downturn in crime, a significant issue as most prisoners have been "chronically unemployed" (Michigan.gov).

    Controversy also surrounds the program as many tax payers believe too much money currently goes to the prisoner system as is. Throw in the financial requirements of the MSI and an hourly wage given to each employee, and soon enough the public complaint is louder than ever. Such financial compensation does have its benefits however. Money earned on the assignment is often sent home to help dependents and is often saved for use when the prisoner returns to society (Michigan.gov). Providing such support for the families of prisoners is certainly admirable, however, the amount of money spent to care for prisoners alone is eating at the tax payers wallet.

    Can there be a compromise to this ongoing dilemma of spent money versus applicable lessons taught to potentially better our hardened criminals? Should an hourly pay be handed out at all, or is it the responsibility of each prisoner to repay their time and resources as civic duty to compensate tax payer money? In the mean time, we will see a program without a business plan drain money, all while producing stellar license plates and state-of-the-art furniture.

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    The Michigan Policy Network is a student-led public education and research program to report and organize news and information about the political process surrounding Michigan state policy issues. It is run out of the Department of Political Science at Michigan State University, with participation by students from the College of Social Science, the College of Communication, and James Madison College. 

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