Soap made by inmates going to relief

Nov. 21, 2013 @ 09:27 PM

MANSON — State prisoners held at the Warren Correctional Institution traded bars of iron for bars of soap this week as a project to help relief efforts in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan.

On Wednesday and Thursday, the inmates were processing donated soap scraps through machinery that melts, remixes and shapes a continuous line of extruded soap.

From there, more inmates cut the square bars for others to box up and load onto palates. In all, the plant filled an order for 580,000 bars that will go to humanitarian workers on the ground in the Philippines.

To Clifford Baucom, a medium-custody inmate who usually runs a press machine for the N.C. Correction Enterprises Janitorial Products Plant, the order means he can do something to help others.

“You’re helping somebody who is doing worse than you are,” Baucom said. “Even though I’m incarcerated, I can help somebody.”

The project aims to help as relief efforts deal with more than 4 million displaced people, which is a mounting humanitarian crisis situation. The soap is anti-bacterial, meeting critical hygiene needs.

Don Mobley, the assistant superintendent for programs at Warren Correctional, said loading up 288 palates into two truckloads is the first step in a long journey.

“Workers with World Vision are on the ground in the Philippines where the soap is going,” Mobley said.

Mobley added the work at Correction Enterprises is an integral part of the correctional institution’s mission.

“We bus these inmate workers over in the morning and they come back at night,” he said. “The inmate labor program gives them some skill sets, plus we’re putting out a product.”

The manager for the Warren facility, a janitorial products plant, is Charles Faires. He said the soap line is for charitable causes. The plant takes soap scraps that would normally add to the chemical burden of various landfills, creating the rough-cut but completely usable soap instead.

“Our operation overall has six supervisors, and we have 75 inmates working here,” Faires said. “We have 18 on this project. A soap company donates the scraps, otherwise it would go to a landfill.”

The raw product, soap scrap, came to the plant in the form of a cone-shaped block weighing 40,000 pounds. Faires said an impressive first step was processing that down to cut shavings in less than two days.

It is not a new process at the Corrections Enterprises plant. The inmates are regularly producing more bars of soap for World Vision and other charitable organizations making orders.

“This is something we’ve been doing for the past three years,” Mobley said. “It is all non-profit.”

Haiyan hit the Philippines Nov. 8 with sustained winds of 185 miles per hour, making it a super typhoon and the equivalent to a Category 4 or 5 hurricane. Haiyan is one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever to hit land.

Correction Enterprises manufactures most of their soap for World Vision partner Mission to Provide a Cleaner Tomorrow, an Ohio-based nonprofit Christian ministry.

The Warren County Correction Enterprises facility opened six years ago with 87,000 square feet of manufacturing and warehouse space. The janitorial products work came to Warren County from Harnett County.

Correction Enterprises operates 31 plants across North Carolina.

Contact the writer at mfisher@hendersondispatch.com.