- Created on Thursday, 03 May 2007 02:48
- Written by Susan Capparelle
Woodbourne, NY – She may have to supervise 23 felons incarcerated for crimes ranging from drug dealing to rape and murder, but Sandy Baum likes her job. Baum is the laundry supervisor at Woodbourne prison; a medium security facility situated 90 miles north of New York City in the Catskills. "You have to earn their respect and then it's OK," she says.
The prison's 120-foot by 40-foot laundry housed in the main building handles 3,500 to 4,000 pounds of laundry a day for 800 inmates. And it's the prisoners themselves who are doing all the laundry.
"When inmates come to Woodbourne they have to work," says Baum. Doing a 'program' as it is called does not allow for shorter sentences or perks – it's just an obligation all inmates must fulfill. They can do this by choosing to work in the state shop where they get their uniforms, the storeroom where deliveries come in or the prison laundry.
The laundry has 14 prisoners who work the morning shift from 7:30 am to 11 am and nine who work the afternoon shift from 12:30 pm to 2:45 pm.
"On Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays we do sheets, towels, pillowcases and blankets," says Baum. "Mops and rags get done once a week." In fact everything is washed once a week except the mess hall and dining room employee uniforms which are washed daily.
The laundry also services the linens for those who do the mowing and shoveling. Prisoners who work the laundry program must manage all aspects of the laundering process.
"We have two 200-lb three pocket Edro DynaWash washers – so we have to weigh the laundry," says Baum. "One inmate weighs it so the right amount is in each pocket of the machine. Meanwhile two porters keep the place clean - they clean all day."
The laundry also uses an Edro 100-pd open pocket washer, two 120-lb Huebsch dryers, two 120-lb ADC dryers and a brand new 170-pd ADC dryer.
Because there are no folders several inmates are responsible for folding all the laundry. There is also a clerk who handles the monthly report showing just how much of each type of linen is processed and where it originates from within the prison. All the laundry workers must adhere to strict behavioral codes while performing these jobs.
"No one is allowed to touch the machines except those inmates trained and assigned to handle the specific washers and dryers," says Baum. "In other places I've heard that one inmate will do another inmate's laundry and get something in return like cigarettes etc.”
Even inmates not working in the laundry just dropping off and receiving their linen must follow strict protocols. "All the clothes come into the laundry in a green or white net bag," says Baum. "Each bag belongs to an inmate and has a number on it. The inmate gets a ticket which tells what's in the bag and its number.”
The clothes are all washed and dried within these net bags – they are neither folded nor ironed.
Each day the laundry workers lay out the clean linen in an assigned spot for the appropriate prison block so inmates can pick up their clothing.
"The inmates who work in the laundry get to wash their own clothes which is a perk as they get to follow its wash, drying and make sure it's done well," she says.
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