Inmates and employees at federal prisons around the country may have been exposed to toxins while working to recycle electronic waste as part of a program overseen by Unicor. The work was performed at 10 federal prisons: Dublin, California; La Tuna in Anthony, Texas; Elkton, Ohio; Fort Dix, New Jersey; Marianna, Florida; Texarkana, Texas; Atwater, California; Leavenworth, Kansas; Lewisburg, Pennsylvania; and Tucson, Arizona. The types of electronics recycled in the Unicor program may have exposed inmates and employees to a variety of toxins, including toxic metals, such as cadmium, lead, mercury, arsenic, and beryllium.
Lawyers with our firm who practice exclusively in the areas of toxic torts are aggressively investigating the Unicor electronic waste recycling program at federal prisons. An investigation conducted by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the US Justice Department has already determined that that Unicor management of the electronic waste recycling program resulted in numerous violations of health, safety, and environmental laws, regulations, and Federal Bureau of Prisons policies.
Inmates and employees who worked in the Unicor electronic waste recycling program may be entitled to compensation for their injuries. Our toxic torts lawyers are offering free legal consultations to both inmates and employees who believe their participation in the Unicor electronic waste recycling program made them sick. We urge you to contact us right away to protect your legal rights.
Unicor Electronic Waste Recycling Program Allegations
Federal Prison Industries, which is known by its trade name “Unicor,” is a government corporation within the Federal Bureau of Prisons that provides employment to staff and inmates at federal prisons throughout the US. Unicor sells a variety of consumer products and services, such as office furniture and clothing, and industrial products, such as security fencing and license plates. As of June 2010, Unicor had 103 factories at 73 prison locations, employing approximately 17,000 inmates or 11 percent of the inmate population.
In 1997, Unicor began to accept computers, monitors, printers, and other types of electronic waste for recycling at federal prisons. Electronic waste contains many toxic substances that can be harmful to humans and to the environment. For example, a computer can contain toxic metals, such as cadmium, lead, mercury, arsenic, and beryllium. Cathode ray tubes, which are found in televisions and computer monitors, typically contain between 2 to 5 pounds of lead. When electronic waste is disassembled and recycled, workers can be exposed to toxic metals which can cause serious health problems.
According to the OIG, the Unicor electronic waste recycling program was the subject of complaints from both inmates and employees. These complaints asserted that Unicor’s electronic waste recycling practices were not safe and had made Unicor staff and inmates sick. As a result of these complaints, the OIG launched its investigation of the program.
The OIG investigation found that Unicor staff members often failed to perform hazard assessments on new electronic waste operations or did so incorrectly, and important health and safety information was not shared with Bureau of Prisons officials. Even after the hazards of electronic waste recycling were clearly identified to the leadership of Unicor’s Recycling Business Group in 2002, Unicor was slow to make necessary changes, the OIG said.
The consequence was that Unicor and Bureau of Prisons staff and inmates were needlessly exposed to cadmium and lead – two dangerous toxic metals – during recycling activities, and that parts of some Bureau of Prisons facilities where recycling activities had previously occurred without proper engineering and hygiene controls were contaminated with these metals and required remediation. While the OIG inquiry did not definitively link any long-term health effects to recycling work, it did not rule out that a link could be established in the future.
Legal Help for Victims of the Unicor Electronic Waste Recycling Program
The conduct of Unicor in the management of the electronic waste recycling program put hundreds of inmates and workers at risk for serious illnesses resulting from toxic exposures. It is important that Unicor be held accountable for its despicable conduct. If you or someone you care about were a victim of the Unicor electronic waste recycling program at federal prisons, you have valuable legal rights. To find out how we can help you hold Unicor accountable, please fill out our online form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-529-4363) today.