Prison In-plant Goes High Tech

Published Wednesday, 20 February, 2013
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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.


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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 Ferrari 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. 


"It's opened up a lot of new avenues for us," Epley says. The in-plant has done full-color basketball programs for local high schools, and booklets for the county health care plan. Because the Meteor can print on PVC material, the in-plant was asked to print park signs. It also printed public health posters on PVC regarding the influenza virus.

Epley likes the fact that MGI will train him to repair and maintain the digital press. He, in turn, will train his inmate volunteer workers, enhancing their skills.

Faster Throughput

The Meteor DP8700 XL has greatly improved the in-plant's turnaround time. The shop recently printed 140,000 field interview cards for use by deputies. The two-sided, 3.25x5" cards are individually numbered.

"It's a process that used to take us two months to get done," Epley remarks. With the Meteor DP8700 XL it took just a few days. 

Such fast throughput is helped tremendously by the new high-speed Standard Horizon finishing equipment, which can produce 4,500 books per hour. Featuring extensive setup automation, icon-based operation via a 10.4? color touchscreen and the ability to program up to 200 job settings, the SPF-200A booklet making system, combined with the vacuum-fed VAC-1000 collator, has greatly reduced the amount of time it takes to handle large projects like inmate rule books. The in-plant produces 10,000 of them at a time.

"It would take me three or four days to collate the booklet before," says Epley. "Now it takes me four hours."

To show off the in-plant's capabilities, Epley plans to hold an open house for all Ventura County agencies. "I'm really excited about that," he declares.