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 el 10 Feb 2009 por Ayumi Nakai


Products made in a juvenile jail are big sellers in Japan. The best-selling product is an apron.

Maru-goku apron, number 1 in sales
Maru-goku apron, number 1 in sales
Maru-goku apron, number 1 in sales Small Maru-goku brand handbags At the jail’s shop More Maru-goku products
"Sorry, we’re out of stock. They’re in production." Lately, this phrase has been repeated a lot by Japanese clerks at shops that sell Maru-goku products. The Maru-goku brand has turned its products into big sellers. The best-selling product is an apron: in one on-line shop, 100 aprons were sold out in three minutes and 10,000 have been sold in just two years. The brand, which manufactures just 13 products, has had a profit of 24 million yen (209 thousand Euros) in the last two years.

What’s so special about these products? Why are they so popular in these times of crisis? The key to their success is that they are cheap high-quality products. But, if they’re good quality, why are they so cheap? They’re made by prisoners in a Japanese juvenile jail! And, since it’s a non-profit organization, it sells everything it makes at truly low prices.

One-hundred prisoners work at the factory in Hakone juvenile jail. They already used to build armoires and furniture, but, two years ago, they created a textile brand called Maru-goku for which they design and produce wallets, handbags and aprons. The brand’s logo is a circle (Maru) and Goku means jail.

The aim of having a factory inside the jail is to make sure prisoners to have a routine, a daily work schedule and so that they will feel useful and satisfied upon completing their work. "A lot of people feel strange about owning products that were made in jail, but you have to look at the products’ quality. That’s the reason they’re so popular," says the center’s director. The products’ retro Japanese style has also helped make them big sellers.

The prisoners’ work has won the Japanese Ministry of Justice’s award two years in a row. It’s also the first brand to be registered under the jail products category.

However, controlling product quality is no easy task. There’s a rule in jail that says the more you work, the sooner you’ll be back on the street. This means that a prisoner may have to leave the jail once he’s become a model worker. That’s why they manage work groups that combine new arrivals with veterans, so the newbies can learn from the experts as quickly as possible.

Their products are almost always out of stock, and the jail’s workers complain that they keep running out of supplies. This problem undoubtedly helps to boost the proud prisoners moods and self-esteem. If only every problem in jail were that easy to solve.

On-line shop that sells the Maru-goku brand
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