California Cancels Use of Prison Labor to Recycle Electronics

California will no longer use underpaid federal prisoners to recycle the tons of potentially dangerous electronics discarded by state workers. The decision to stop shipping e-waste to prisons came in response to pressure from environmental and labor activists, who also successfully protested a similar arrangement by Dell, the largest computer maker in the U.S., which canceled its prison-labor recycling program last month. California plans to hire a private recycler instead, a move that was greeted as “great news for the real e-waste recycling industry,” according to Mark Murray, director of Californians Against Waste. Environmentalists, labor activists, and prisoners-rights groups had assailed the earlier recycling plan as a “high-tech chain gang,” noting that inmates were paid as little as 20 cents per hour and used primitive tools to break open computers and monitors, exposing themselves to hazardous waste.