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Member Profile: Correctional Industries

A Culture of Sustainability

Sustainability and environmental awareness permeate everything we do at Correctional Industries. From selecting raw materials for our products to slimming business operations and carefully choosing the markets we enter, they are an integral part of CI’s culture.

Sustainable business practices converge naturally with Correctional Industries’ mission to rehabilitate offenders through job training and reduce Corrections’ reliance on tax dollars. Training in sustainable technology and lean manufacturing systems prepares offenders for work in a world increasingly focused on these important issues. In the process they also learn environmental ethics and business strategies. Meanwhile, sustainable practices multiply the effectiveness of every tax dollar, helping CI generate about $32.50 in benefits for every dollar in cost and contribute millions of dollars each year to Washington’s economy.

Cardboard recycling program

Offender workers sorting through cardboard and plastic for recycling

CI’s commitment to building sustainability in all its business operations includes using environmentally friendly and recycled material for manufacturing, creating products that can be completely recycled, offering recycling services — like our mattress recycling service that processes 52,000 mattresses a year — and developing zero-waste processes. But it also includes trimming down our procedures and processes to avoid needless delays, repetitive efforts, waste and unnecessary manpower. In this way we deliver superior products to customers faster while reducing costs and freeing up capacity for new product lines. Additional product lines increase job and training opportunities so more offenders are prepared to return to society as productive individuals.

The Journey to Sustainability
CI started with common environmentally friendly moves like switching to water-based finishes and using recycled wood products to build furniture. These kinds of steps qualified many of CI’s furniture products for GREENGUARD Certification for low chemical emissions. Development of our CorrectPac janitorial products line, with environmentally friendly and high-concentration formulas and a packaging system designed to reduce waste, was another early adaptation, which also helped our customers’ sustainability efforts.

Bread baking

Offenders preparing baked goods at Airway Heights Corrections Center

From there CI branched out into less conventional strategies, including instituting a recycling program for furniture packing material that decreased dumpster usage by two-thirds at one facility, saving $24,000 a year. CI also recycles materials from other state offices, reducing their waste management costs. Meanwhile, CI’s mattress recycling program, which primarily recycles prison mattresses used by offenders and is serving as a model for the federal prison system, saves the Department of Corrections up to $90,000 a year in landfill costs. Mattresses are disassembled and components are sold to industries that recycle them for use in other products, generating revenue that reduces reliance on tax dollars.

Correctional Industries Director, Lyle Morse

When Lyle Morse came on board as CI’s director, the company’s sustainability efforts took yet another leap. An expert in lean manufacturing and business systems, Morse trained staff at every CI facility in lean manufacturing principles. They learned to identify opportunities to reduce delays, minimize waste and scrap, cut costs and increase value to the customer. At the McNeil Island facility Morse and his staff cut a 30-day order-entry period for furniture manufacturing into a 4-day process. At the Coyote Ridge facility, CI converted its uniform manufacturing line to a pull-flow system in which each uniform is made from start to finish and only enough are made for each order. This reduced storage and inventory needs and created enough new capacity at the plant to add a whole new product line.
Meanwhile, CI’s food service division streamlined its offering into a four-week menu of food items and standardized manufacturing processes so all 16 food service facilities used the same processes. The switch-over saved the Department of Corrections more than $1.9 million in just six months while increasing sales.

Correctional Industries is Not Done Yet
Correctional Industries is always on the lookout for new opportunities to make our operations more efficient and our businesses cleaner, greener and more sustainable. Compostable food containers for our food group, recycling offender clothing, and composting bio-solids from waste water plants with prison food waste to create a saleable fertilizer are all on tap. Lean manufacturing efforts continue with the goal of streamlining processes at all our facilities statewide. Where possible, operations are being condensed and excess capacity is being applied to new product lines.
One strategy for achieving our sustainability goals is to create closed-loop systems that feed each other and minimize reliance on outside resources, such as the up-coming aquaponics operations at two of CI’s facilities. Each facility will raise fish for use in CI’s food product lines and offender meals. High in plant nutrients, wastewater from the fish ponds will irrigate and fertilize hydroponic vegetable gardens that are also utilized in our food program. The vegetables effectively filter the water so it can be returned to the fish ponds. The closed-loop system minimizes needs for fertilizer, municipal water and energy for water filtration.
Systems like the aquaponics operations reduce waste and consumption of resources while creating high-value products for our markets and increasing job and training opportunities for offenders. They are truly sustainable systems and represent the core ideals of Correctional Industries’ vision for a sustainable future—a future in which corrections is not just an expense, but an investment that contributes to community and economic growth throughout the State of Washington.