Report: Gov. Cuomo's Prison-Made Hand Sanitizer Project Is a Complete Sham


Once upon a time, I almost sort of respected New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.

I ought to have known better, given the fact that Cuomo has long been a man in thrall to the Democratic Party machine, famous for signing the country’s most permissive pro-abortion law.

For a minute, I figured the moment may have found the best of the man, however.

He was one of the few public officials willing to say that “fear and panic” might actually be as harmful as the disease itself. He was willing to give very, very freely of his time in marathon news conferences. He seemed on top of things.

I should have known.

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First was what can best be described as the great ventilator fight of 2020, in which the august figure of the governor of New York decided to pick a slap-fight with the White House over who was responsible for the shortage of ventilators in the state.

On Wednesday came another revelation which dinged the governor’s reputation as a solver of coronavirus-related problems: His project to get prisoners to make hand sanitizer seems to have been an absolute sham.

According to an article in Vice, the sanitizer is nothing more than a mystery product made by a third party and being put into bottles with the “NYS Clean” branding on them.

The product was supposed to fight price gouging and be distributed to government agencies, the Metropolitan Transit Authority and various nonprofits, according to WNBC.

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“We are problem solvers, state of New York, Empire State, progressive capital of the nation,” Cuomo said at a news conference earlier this month.

There is “price gouging on hand sanitizer and a high demand for hand sanitizer,” Cuomo added. “What do you do?”

“Make your own hand sanitizer? Can you do that?”

It was quite the unveiling, with Cuomo snapping his fingers to open a curtain behind which hand sanitizer in “NYS Clean”- branded jugs was concealed.

He even gave the product a sniff: “I detect lilac, hydrangea, tulips,” he said.

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Cuomo added that the sanitizer, since it contained 75 percent alcohol (and had a “very nice floral bouquet”), was a superior product: “Purell — a competitor to New York State Clean — [has] 70 percent.”

There’s just one problem: “According to workers at Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock, New York where the hand sanitizer is being ‘made,’ as well as a spokesperson for the prison system, they are doing nothing more than taking existing hand sanitizer and rebottling it into packaging labeled NYS Clean,” Vice’s Katie Way reported on Wednesday.

The report stated that “the hand sanitizer itself is being produced by an outside vendor he would not name; the Great Meadow Facility is only bottling and labeling it.

“Neither [the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision] nor the governor’s office would respond to repeated questions about why the state would need to use prison labor to bottle hand sanitizer, nor did the governor’s office respond to questions about Cuomo’s pitch that this was a cheaper, more effective option than buying bottled hand sanitizer outright,” she reported.

A worker on the filling line, who said he was being paid “a whopping $2 an hour” (other jobs in the Department of Corrections system earn far less than that, something which Way was outraged about but over which I feel no guilt) said he and other prison labor on the NYS Clean line were “completely overworked.”

“They treat us like s—,” he said.

Well, see also “River, Cry Me A.” However, if this is a product of New York state’s progressivism, it’s interesting because the only reason the product is cheap is because the labor is so inexpensive.

“A 1998 article from the New York Times cited Corcraft employees making 32 cents an hour to work at call centers or 37 cents an hour to push thousands of pounds of dough around bakeries; wages do not seem to have meaningfully shifted since, according to data from the Prison Policy Initiative, and inmates’ own accounts,” Way reported.

That’s not exactly a matter of progressive pride, nor is it something that Cuomo will be bragging about anytime soon.

Why would anyone even do this? It’s one of the more pointless political feints of recent years, one which made me cringe even considering the questions that surround it.

At what point did Cuomo not think he’d be found out? At what point did he think this wouldn’t get negative media attention? Furthermore, at what point did he not think that liberals wouldn’t care about this?

Cuomo is clearly a man who wants to use this crisis as a jumping-off point to something.

It’s clear Joe Biden is going to be the Democratic nominee for president this year, so it won’t be that. However, you don’t lie about the state manufacturing its own hand sanitizer if you’re not grooming yourself for something bigger.

At a time when a pandemic threatens to cut a Malthusian scythe through our society, Cuomo appears to have misled the public about state-produced COVID-19 supplies. Absolutely pathetic.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture