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Federal Prison Industries, Inc…

When FCI Schuylkill, PA, first opened back in ’92, I was one of the first prisoners bused there.  I resumed my usual clerk’s job at the prison factory.

Arbeit Macht Frie

As the prison filled up, a logo design contest was held for the factory.  The design I submitted was of a factory belching smoke on a hilltop with a long snaking line of prisoners in chains.  Over the gate to the prison they filed thru was a sign reading: Arbeit Macht Frie.

To my utter amazement, I soon became one of the five finalists in the contest.  Being interviewed by Mike Campanale, the Associate Warden of Industries (AW-I) and his staff, they asked me what the slogan on the gate stood for?

What started out for me as my South Bronx humor and a churlish joke, suddenly became serious.  Looking around at the dozen-or-so eager faces, I figured, What the hell…

I answered, “It’s Latin for ‘Work Will Make You Free.’”  When I left the meeting, I was all but assured that I was the leading candidate.  Go figure…

A few days later, in a presentation before the entire factory (then up to about 20 staff and 200+ prisoners), the top three winners were announced.  I was not in the group.  Someone had finally caught on…Rats!

While they went ahead and eventually gave me a consolation prize of a T-shirt with the winning logo, they never mentioned my design again.  However, the AW-I definitely made it clear that he didn’t appreciate me or my humor.  But that’s another story…

Of course, as any 101 student of history knows, Arbeit Macht Frie was indeed a work slogan, but it’s German and it stood over the entrance to the NAZI extermination camp at Auschwitz.

               Dr. Publico

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2 Responses
  1. […] belief is borne in the wide disparity between what facility workers earn (mostly 12¢/hr.), and UNICOR workers earn (an average of 93¢/hr.).  Most UNICOR factories have a 1-to-2 year waiting […]

  2. […] I recall one time being threatened in a discussion in the prison industry business office at UNICOR.  Big Red told me, after gritting his teeth, balling his fists, and getting nose-to-nose, […]

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