The IWL (Inmate Ward Labor) Supervisor at the California Institution for Men and the California Institute for Women (both in Chino, CA) is constantly on the lookout for ways to improve productivity and quality on the job site. After becoming aware of Poly Meta Forms he immediately thought this product could be a “game changer” for the multiple concrete sidewalks, slabs and curbing projects inside the prison.

Straight poly forms are set for a new sidewalk along the side of an exercise yard.
Metal Forms Corp. Straight poly forms are set for a new sidewalk along the side of an exercise yard.

The intuition of the IWL Supervisor proved correct. Not only did the lightweight poly forming system allow faster and easier concrete construction, but the State of California also was impressed with its sustainable and environmental features. The wood forms used previously could be used only two or three times before they had to be discarded, while the poly forms can be reused up to 200 times. Also, in comparison to wood, the poly forms are easier to clean and transport.

Pouring begins for a long walkway. Poly forms will be easier to remove and clean than the previous wooden forms after the concrete is set.
Metal Forms Corp. Pouring begins for a long walkway. Poly forms will be easier to remove and clean than the previous wooden forms after the concrete is set.

Some unique logistical factors are involved in prison construction, since the work is performed under tight security. All labor is provided by a team of prison inmates who are eager to work because they are paid and can then purchase items from the prison “canteen”. Pay begins at 75¢ per hour and can advance to 95¢ per hour. Intense interviews are required before inmates are selected for the construction work, and the most violent and dangerous are automatically excluded.

Although all labor is provided by the prisoners, each 20-man inmate crew has up to three supervisors. The supervisors are supplied by outside union halls and are on the job to train the inmates in concrete forming and finishing techniques. One of the objectives is to teach construction skills that can help the inmates find gainful employment after being released from prison.

Partially completed sidewalk shows forms in place in foreground and removed in background.
Metal Forms Corp. Partially completed sidewalk shows forms in place in foreground and removed in background.

The State of California has made a considerable investment in Poly Meta Forms® based on their sustainability and environmental advantages, as well as the simplicity and ease of setting, stripping, cleaning and transporting them. The total amount of lineal feet purchased amounts to almost two miles of forms: 2,880' of 4” flexible forms, 1,800' of 4” straight forms, 2,640' of 6” flexible forms and 2,520' of 6”straight forms. The forms, manufactured by Metal Forms Corporation, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, weigh 50 percent less than wood and are uniform in height. They are easy to adjust horizontally and vertically by simply loosening the wedge on their steel pockets.