June 2, 2006 – The Justice Department has finally agreed to open an investigation into health hazards surrounding electronics recycling programs in US prisons. The programs are run by the government-owned corporation UNICOR, which pays inmates substandard wages to break down computers containing toxic metals.
- Prison E-waste Recycling (May 11, 2006)
The NewStandard reported in May that Leroy A. Smith Jr., a prison safety manager, had accused prison officials at the Atwater federal penitentiary in California of violating health and safety regulations for e-waste recycling and for exposing inmates to toxins.
The US Office of Special Counsel, which deals with federal government whistleblowers looked into the matter and determined that the Federal Bureau of Prisons had not adequately addressed Smithâ€™s concerns. The Counsel requested a "thorough, independent and impartial investigation into computer recycling activities at BOP institutions."
In a May 9 letter addressed to the watchdog group Pubic Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the Justice Departmentâ€™s inspector generalâ€™s office said it would open a probe into computer-recycling practices at Atwater and other prisons with similar operations.