SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — One of the hottest commodities in Utah right now is the historic black vintage state license plate. The plates take 4 to 6 weeks to receive, and you can’t miss the sleek styles as they race past you on Utah roadways.
The plates are hitting the streets, literally, thanks to the Utah Correctional Industries (UCI) inmate work program and the system has gotten a much-needed revamp along with the flashy black plate.
The license plate plant was Utah State Prison’s first internal UCI operation. The division recently got an upgrade — they have a brand-new facility and an update of their 1950s machinery, and the results are extraordinary. This has allowed for better automation, safety, and quality. The new equipment has further boosted production and inmates are producing about 11,000 plates per day.
There are 24 inmate participants, they call themselves “Plate Busters.” The inmates develop many skills including computer maintenance, software management, forklift and heavy machinery operation, quality control, and how to communicate effectively. Supervisors say the most important skill the inmates learn is how to work together as a team to achieve a common goal.
UCI has been part of the Utah prison system since the territorial prison of the late 1800s. Early inmate work teams consisted of chain gangs and later involved manufacturing license plates and signs. Today UCI is a division of the Utah Department of Corrections with 12 work programs in the state’s two prison facilities. With over 400 inmate work participants producing services for state and local government agencies.
Products, in addition to license plates, produced by UCI include office furniture, printing, signs, textiles, silk screening, and embroidery. Services provided through inmate workers include the inmate commissary, document scanning, and data entry.
The goal of UCI is to provide inmates with work opportunities that can help in their success after release. Inmates apply for positions just as they would outside of the prison system. Those that meet minimum requirements are interviewed and job placement is determined by an offender’s history, privilege level, and performance during the interview.
Once given a work opportunity inmates are expected to perform the duties given and excel in their understanding of the day-to-day operations. Inmates can learn manufacturing techniques, operations management, purchasing, computer programs, customer service, construction trades, and many other skills. UCI provides leading-edge technology, machinery, and trained professional staff to enhance the inmate’s skills and performance.
UCI is able to successfully fulfill its financial operating obligations by selling the goods and services produced by the inmate work program. The program does research to make sure it is keeping up with the current market and assuring the products and services it offers meet or exceed current trends. Like any other business, UCI strives to be competitive in all aspects of operations.