APRIL 2, 1996
POLKTON - The metal bed frames and lockers going into new North Carolina prisons are being made by inmates at the metal fabrication plant at Brown Creek Correctional Institution.
"If it's made out of metal, we do it," said Donald Bullock, the plant's manager. "We've made hollow metal doors and frames. Right now, we're making inmate lockers, dormitory-style double bunks and a two-tiered style of bed for double celling inmates."
Each morning at 7:25, forty inmates report to work. Inmates work an assembly line that turns out about ten lockers and ten bunks per day. They also manufacture cabinets, racks, metal doors and customized products.
Anson Community College instructors teach classes on welding and computer assisted drafting (CAD) in a part of the prison metal fabrication plant. Inmates who complete these classes can then go to work in the plant.
"Very few of these inmates have experience working with sheet metal," said Bullock. "But with the training and the experience they get in the plant, we help them develop a good work ethic and skills to get a job."
A skilled CAD operator in a top-notch fabrication shop may make an annual salary in the high twenties and a skilled computerized press brake operator can make $14 to $15 an hour," Bullock said. While developing their skills working in the plant, the inmates are paid seventy cents a day.
Brown Creek has the first powder coat operation of any of the state's prison industries. Inmates hang the bed frames or lockers on a conveyer line, where the product is washed and dried. Nex it goes into a booth where the metal receives an electrostatically-charged powder paint blown on at low pressure. From the booth, the conveyer carries the product into an oven where it's cured at 380 degrees for twelve to fourteen minutes.
"This system is safer environmentally and is very efficient," said Bullock.
The metal fabrication plant is one of a number of inmate jobs at Brown Creek Correctional Institution. Inmates may be assigned to work on road squads, food service, prison maintenance or unit clean up.
"Brown Creek's metal fabrication plant teaches inmates a trade and important job skills," said Correction Secretary Franklin Freeman. "And it also provides the prison system with products that we need."
Brown Creek is a medium security prison for adult males. It houses 730 inmates.