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Prison In-plant Goes High Tech

New digital printing and finishing equipment is not only improving the capabilities of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department's in-plant, it is enhancing the skills of its inmate volunteers.

February 2013 By Bob Neubauer
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Like many prison in-plants, the Ventura County Sheriff's Office Print Shop was getting by for years using older equipment. Its one- and two-color offset presses and an old friction-fed collator/booklet maker worked well enough, but they didn't exactly give inmate operators the skills that would make modern digital printing operations want to hire them upon their release.

So Mark Epley, Inmate Services Print Shop Supervisor, set about trying to remedy that. Last year he succeeded in bringing some of the most cutting-edge technology into the Santa Paula, Calif., in-plant, which is located inside the Todd Road Jail facility. He installed an MGI Meteor DP8700 XL multi-substrate digital press along with a Standard Horizon VAC-1000 collator and SPF-200A booklet making system.

"The quality of the MGI outdid anything we saw," remarks Epley. The price was right too, he adds. "I don't pay a click charge on it."

He also has nothing but good things to say about the Standard collating and bookletmaking equipment, which is much more robust than the old collator/booklet maker.

"It's like driving a Ferari after driving a Pinto," Epley praises.

The Standard and MGI equipment came together as part of a package deal from Print & Finishing Solutions, in Placentia, Calif.

Vocational Training

Epley is elated to have such cutting-edge equipment in his shop, since it will give inmate volunteers skills they can use to find jobs in the printing industry once they're released, he says. The in-plant serves as a vocational training program for a crew of seven male inmates. Behavior problems are rare, he notes.

"It's one of the better programs, so the guys down here, they don't want to mess it up for themselves," Epley says. "They know it's a privilege to be in here."

Three quarters of the shop's work is for the sheriff's department—jobs like accident booklets, report forms, catalogs and inmate rule books. Most jobs are not security sensitive, but when such a job arises, Epley will print it himself.

The new Meteor DP8700 XL press has enabled the in-plant to take on a whole new crop of short-run color work, after years of turning such jobs away.


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