Adrian inmates make state’s license plates
Adrian — Yes, they still make license plates in prison.
Tucked in a nondescript building at the Gus Harrison Correctional Facility near Adrian, 52 inmates make all the license plates for the state of Michigan.
About 10,000 plates are made each working day at the secure facility. Working four days each week, inmates make 2.5 million plates each year.
License plates were first made by prisoners in Michigan in 1910.
Today, inmates must apply for positions in the factory. To qualify, they must have a GED or high school diploma and be “ticket free” in the facility for six months. Wages start at 35 cents per hour and can climb to as high as 90 cents per hour. The positions are highly sought after.
“Our main goal for MSI (Michigan State Industries) is one thing,” said Will Rondeau, License Plate Factory plant manager. “Get an inmate over here, get him trained to learn a profession to take out into the world and not come back to prison.
“Every guy that is in here is given the opportunity to learn a skill. If they take advantage of it, great, and most of them actually do.”
Rondeau said that there is a lower recidivism rate for those that work in the factory and leave prison with a skill.
The license plate making process starts with a 2,000-pound roll of aluminum. Each coil can produce about 10,000 plates. After going through a process to add a sticker to the aluminum, the plate is pressed and embossed.
From there, it goes through an inking process to make the embossed letters and numbers stand out. (You know that lovely Michigan blue color). After inking, plates are baked in a large oven for 45 minutes at 275 degrees.
Final inspection and packaging follows the baking. Once boxed, the plates are housed and now belong to the Secretary of State.