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Crime pays: Mecklenburg County’s corrections industry is big business (access required)

By Sam Boykin When Greg Owens enters the Columbus Correctional Institution in Brunswick, he does so only after undergoing a thorough background check and guards have verified he’s empty-handed. Owens, a technician with The Fox Co., repairs and services sewing machines and other equipment the Charlotte-based company sells to prisons throughout the region. “They make us leave our tools outside,” Owens said. “It would take too long to search us if we brought them.” After being patted down and passing through a metal detector, Owens is led to a prison superintendent and checks out the tools he needs. “If you check out one screwdriver, you better be sure to return one screwdriver,” he said. There’s a big difference between doing jobs at prisons like Columbus Correctional Institution compared with other customers, such as apparel shops, Owens says. “You have to watch what you do and say. You have to keep a heads-up all the time.”

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