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Kansas Correctional Industries Meets Needs of Kansas Businesses

by KDOC News — last modified Sep 28, 2017 09:10 AM
Thirsty Coconut, a family-owned producer of healthy drinks based in Louisburg, needed assistance with their beverage dispensing machines, and had nowhere in Kansas to turn to for help, until they found KCI.
Kansas Correctional Industries Meets Needs of Kansas Businesses

Thirsty Coconut Director of Sales and Marketing Paula Proud and President Luke Einsel hold stainless steel parts made by KCI to secure drink machines

Offenders are helping a Kansas business develop by taking advantage of a federal certification that allows inmates to work with private enterprises through Kansas Correctional Industries (KCI).

Thirsty Coconut, a family-owned producer of healthy drinks based in Louisburg, needed assistance with their beverage dispensing machines, and had nowhere in Kansas to turn to for help, until they found KCI.

KCI, a subsidiary of the Kansas Department of Corrections, teaches offenders new skills, and allows them to earn wages in preparation for life outside of a correctional facility.  One valuable component of KCI is the Private Industry Program.  The program involves partnerships between the KDOC/KCI and private business for prison based and non-prison based operations.  KCI ensures that new private industry programs do not negatively impact workers employed by interested private companies or available workers in the locality of the host correctional facility.

A new federal certification of KCI shops has expanded its ability to assist Kansas businesses.

Since the establishment of the Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP) as created by Congress in 1979, Kansas has been involved with the “employer model” by working in partnership with privately operated companies.  KCI factories have served State Agencies since 1958, but recently some KCI shops, like the metal shop, have been certified through a Federal Program Prison Industries Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP) for “customer based” work allowing KCI to assist Kansas businesses with the manufacturing of products.  KCI recently certified not only the metal factory, but the furniture factory, textiles factory and the dental lab have completed the process as well.

Because of the certification, fabrication of a new product by KCI is helping a new Kansas business develop. 

Luke Einsel, President of Thirsty Coconut, Inc., met representatives of KCI at a vendor fair, and found a partner who could create the stainless steel parts needed for their machines.   

“The only place I could find that would do what I needed was in China,” said Einsel, “I was just about to sign a contract that would have sent this work to the other side of the world, when fortunately I found out KCI might be able to help.”

Brad Jurgensen, KCI Director of Operations, said the recent expansion in certification of some KCI shops has allowed them to take on new projects such as that of Thirsty Coconut.

“This way the offenders learn to work with several different customers, learn a broad range of skills and flexibility to work on different products,” Jurgensen said. 

Jurgensen said he noticed in recent years a shortage of metal fabricators and welders within the state of Kansas.  He said KCI is always in need of projects for offenders to work on, and transitioning to customer-based service has opened up new opportunities.  These work environments found within correctional facilities pay market wages to offenders who stay free of discipline issues and prove themselves reliable. Often the training they gain within KCI programs translates directly to employment opportunities upon release.

KCI recently produced the parts to satisfy Thirsty Coconut’s order – enough to secure 480 machines.  

“It’s really good for our company that we can get these products made right here in Kansas,” said Einsel. “I’m really glad it turned into a win-win for us and the Department of Corrections.”

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