The use of prison labor in a productive capacity began almost a century and a half before its formal recognition in New Jersey in 1918. From its inception, the concept of Correctional Industries was to serve two main purposes: to minimize prison disorder and to prepare inmates for a successful life after release from prison.

DEPTCOR originated as the State Use Division, established under the Department of Institutions and Agencies. The production of license plates was the first formal industry established by the division, and it is still in operation today. By the end of 1933, State Use had 20 different industries.

In 1953, the Division of State Use Industries became the Bureau of State Use Industries. A couple of years later, New Jersey ranked among the top three states in diversification of products, with 155 items manufactured by 30 types of industries. By the end of 1961, the number of industries had grown to 33.

In 1976, State Use Industries began reporting to the newly created Department of Corrections, and in 1990, the trade name DEPTCOR was adopted.