New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo made a big to-do earlier this month when he announced that he would be using prison labor to manufacture a New York-branded hand sanitizer, called New York State Clean. Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, hand sanitizer has been in short supply and price gouging has been rampant, but at the time, the idea was not exactly a welcome one.
Cuomo said that prison workers at Great Meadow Correctional Facility had been selected to brew the sanitizer. However, according to Vice, prisoners aren’t actually making the hand sanitizer, and instead, are bottling pre-made sanitizer in containers that have been labeled with the NYS Clean logo.
A New York Department of Corrections representative told the outlet that an outside vendor has been making the sanitizer, but wouldn’t reveal the company’s name. A prison worker from Great Meadow who’s involved in the bottling backed up that claim, revealing that workers are filling gallon-sized bottles with the pre-made product. He chose to remain anonymous.
On March 9, during a press conference, Cuomo revealed that prison workers would pivot to making the product for NYS Clean in what once was the prison soap shop. He also boasted about how NYS hand sanitizer would have a higher alcohol content: 75 percent to Purell’s 70 percent—and advertised that the sanitizer would have its own unique floral scent.
Cuomo's plan was largely criticized. Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass) said, "Wow. Considering that many incarcerated men and women are subjected to inhumane conditions, including no hand soap, and hand sanitizer is banned in most prisons, this is especially demeaning, ironic, and exploitative."