Several Nashville, Tenn., jail employees at a privately run prison reportedly started a company to sell goods created by prisoners who weren't paid, creating what some consider a slave-labor environment in which officials profited from prisoners' work.
According to the Associated Press, Stand Firm Designs took prisoners' creations, including "beanbag cornhole games, plaques shaped like footballs, birdhouses and dog beds" made in the jail's workshop, and sold them at flea markets and through the company's website.
Two former prisoners at the Metro-Davidson County Detention Facility, Larry Stephney and Charles Brew, told the news site that in order to prove that they had crafted items sold by the company, which claims to be "composed of retired contractors," they concealed their names and the number 412148 on each piece. The number "refers to a section of Tennessee code that makes it illegal for jail officials to require an inmate to perform labor that results in the official's personal gain," AP reports.
AP viewed items with the prisoners' name and the number 412148 on them, which reportedly sold for anywhere from $10 to $50.
According to AP, Rob Hill, Steven Binkley and Roy Napper operate Stand Firm Designs. Hill works at the detention facility as a building-trade instructor, and Binkley is a "computer instructor who works out of a room adjoining the woodworking shop." Napper is a former employee at the prison.
Stephney and Brew claim that they were often told by Hill and Binkley to make specific items. While they say they made items that were useful for the prison, like cabinets, they added that they were often given specific requests to craft plaques, which served no prison purpose.
Napper told the news site that the former prisoners' claims are bogus.
"All I can tell you is it's really just a bogus thing. There's not really any slave labor going on over there," he told AP. "Since it's under investigation, I can't really tell you anything else."
Stephney and Brew told AP that the prison had a strict set of rules that included handing out solitary confinement for the smallest infraction, and therefore they never felt able to refuse the prison officials' requests.
"You do anything there as an inmate, you get put in the hole," Stephney told AP. "If they do something wrong, they should get in trouble, too."
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is looking into the allegations made by the former inmates, AP reports.
Read more at the Associated Press.