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May 21, 2014
United States
Virginia

AT A GLANCE

Industry sector

In-Plant print shop in a prison

Challenge
  • Need to increase productivity
Solution
  • Xerox IGen 4 printer In-Line with a Bourg BCM-x Bleed Crease Module and Bourg BDF-x Document Finisher
Results
  • Quicker learning curve: four weeks to get the basics and 12 weeks to become proficient compared to eight weeks and 52 weeks on the larger cutters, folders and off-line binders
  • The Digital Works program contributes to reduce Virginia’s 27.3% recidivism rate—one of the lowest in the U.S. (average is 60%)
  • The customer now generates 67% of the group’s digital print volume
  • Increased revenue by offering quicker turnaround

Virginia Corrections Offers Inmates a Fresh Start with Digital Finishing ...

Although some prisoners today still make only license plates, many are doing more useful things with their time while “doing time.”

At Virginia Correctional Enterprises (VCE), inmates manufacture products from furniture and apparel to bed linens and binders. For some, the daily regimen includes learning some of the most advanced digital prepress, printing and finishing technology currently available.

Operated by the Virginia Department of Corrections, VCE was established by the Virginia General Assembly more than 75 years ago as a work program to produce goods and services for tax-supported agencies of the Commonwealth and authorized non-profit organizations. A selfsufficient entity, VCE is supported by revenue retained from the sale of its products and services rather than by tax dollars.

VCE vocational programs help instill a work ethic and teach skills that enable offenders incarcerated within the Department of Corrections to become productive members of society upon their release. They also have helped the state reduce its rate of recidivism, which in the U.S. averages 60%.

The expansion to printing was the idea of VCE Director Don Guillory, who believed that offenders needed to learn how to make more than hard goods like clothing and furniture.

Making a Break

“For many years, we maintained a large offset print shop inside our Powhatan, Virginia prison facility. During the 1990s, our customers wanted their jobs faster and we were unable to meet that demand with offset, which is time-consuming to start with and operates even more slowly inside a prison,” says Stephen Palmese, VCE Group Manager, Print Services.

In 1995, VCE purchased a Xerox® DocuTech® 135. “We had that system for a while, but prison procedures made ineffective,” says Palmese.

By 2001, Print Services’ offset turnaround times of two to three weeks were colliding head-on with customer demand for finished jobs in 24 to 72 hours. In response, Palmese suggested opening digital printing centers outside the prison walls‒—a novel approach that hadn’t been attempted before. Guillory consulted with Xerox Corporation, which embraced the idea.

“After searching for the location, Xerox proposed assuming responsibility for the entire copy work of the State Corporation Commission (SCC),” Guillory recalled. This initial collaboration led to a contract (now in its second generation) and expansion to VCE Digital Works.

Today, VCE’s Printing Services Group operates Digital Works printing centers in Richmond and South Park, each more than 20 miles from the high-security Powhatan Correctional Center that houses VCE’s offset operation.

A More Productive System

In downtown Richmond, the smaller of the two digital centers operates as a convenience printer for the SCC and other local government offices. Here, a Xerox Nuvera® 120 EA Production System and two Xerox® DocuPrint® 4100-series printers produce monochrome work, while a Xerox® DocuColor® 252 color printer handles small color jobs.

The larger facility in South Park includes a state-of-the-art prepress department equipped with two Apples, three PCs and the latest publishing software, including The iGen4 Press operates online with an evenly matched C.P. Bourg booklet-making system that makes quick work of everything from pamphlets and brochures to booklets and manuals.

Consisting of a Bourg BCM-x Bleed Crease Module and Bourg BDF-x Document Finisher, the fully automated stitch-fold-trim booklet making system is designed for on-demand, full-bleed production enabling jobs sent to the BCM-x to be creased and bleed-trimmed at the full speed of the iGen4 before they are passed to the Bourg BDF-x finisher.

The Bourg BDF-x can top- or corner-stitch documents with variable data from two to 55 sheets of 80 gsm, and saddle-stitch booklets up to 88 pages thick. In this way, booklets of one or thousands can be produced by the BDF-x with zero waste and at rates up to 4,200 sets per hour.

“I’ve been familiar with C.P. Bourg forever,” Palmese says of his choice, also citing C.P. Bourg’s reputation for the best finishing products that work online with Xerox® presses.

Shorter Learning Curves

Each of the digital facilities is operated by female offenders who are bused in and out each day to nearby minimumsecurity facilities and closely supervised by knowledgeable staff.

"With average impressions of 16 million black and white pages and 4 million color pages per year, the digital facility at South Park generates 67% of the group’s digital print volume", reports Palmese.

Although digital efficiency comes at a higher price to customers, most are willing to pay for the quicker turnaround, according to Palmese. The more advanced digital operation also makes it easier for offenders to learn binding and finishing skills more quickly and to gain the proficiency needed to retrieve and load jobs, operate the presses and troubleshoot problems without intervention, says Palmese citing a study recently conducted by the Print Services Group.

According to the study, inmates typically learn basic skills on the digital presses in two to four weeks—or seven to 13 times faster than on comparable offset equipment. They can become proficient using the digital monochrome presses in 12 weeks, and skilled on the color presses in about one year—or four times faster than the time needed to learn the corresponding offset process.

The learning curve for the smaller bindery equipment is comparable. Inmates need only four weeks on average to learn the basics, and 12 weeks to become proficient. This compares with eight weeks learning the ropes and 52 weeks, or a full year to become proficient on the larger cutters, folders and off-line binders, reports Palmese.

A Life-Changing Experience

“Our time estimates include learning a work ethic and developing the good habits that come with it—like getting up on time, having a good attitude and taking pride in the job,” notes Palmese. “Keep in mind that many of the inmates employed at the digital facility have never operated equipment before—let alone sophisticated printing and finishing equipment—and many have never held a job.”

The offset facility in Powhatan remains the largest of the three. Upgraded over the years, it now sports three Apples and six PCs, sending jobs to computer-to-plate imaging for the shop’s 15 one- and two color offset presses feeding a well-equipped off-line bindery. Printed output runs the gamut from letterhead, business cards and pamphlets to brochures and posters and from black-and-white to double-run fourcolor process.

The decision to send a job to Powhatan or one of the digital facilities depends on the quantity the customer needs, their budget and how fast they want the finished product, says Palmese.

“We offer 24-hour turnaround at the digital centers, compared to two to three week turnaround from Powhatan. If somebody needs a four-color job quickly, there’s just no way to produce it offset,” he says.

“ Our time estimates include learning a work ethic and developing the good habits that come with it—like getting up on time, having a good attitude and taking pride in the job. Keep in mind that many of the inmates employed at the digital facility have never operated equipment before—let alone sophisticated printing and finishing equipment—and many have never held a job.” – Stephen Palmese

“Then again, if a customer wants 15,000 of the same four-color brochures, there’s no way we can do it economically on the digital presses,” he explains.

Palmese credits the Digital Works program with having equipped hundreds of inmates with the skills needed to land jobs outside of prison, contributing to Virginia’s 27.3% recidivism rate—one of the lowest in the U.S.

“That may not sound like a lot,” says Palmese, “but the opportunity to have their own place, their own car and their own bank account is a life-changing situation for the former inmates who apply the skills they’ve learned here to become productive members of society.”