James B. Hunt, Jr., Governor
Joe Hamilton, Acting Secretary
Patty McQuillan, Director of Public Information (919) 733-4926

MARCH 12, 1999

Prisoners build sewing plant at Columbus Correctional Institution

BRUNSWICK – With the help of 52 prisoners, a huge frame structure that will house a Correction Enterprise sewing plant is going up behind Columbus Correctional Institution. The project is the latest to be tackled by Correction Engineers who have put inmates to work for the past six years in prison construction.

One year ago, the minimum-security prisoners erected the fence and security towers around the construction site.

Then the team of engineers and the crew of medium security prisoners began to prepare the footings and columns to hold the steel girders for the building’s roof. The outside concrete support columns are 25 feet tall. The inside columns are 12.5 feet tall.

"This is completely different from anything we’ve done before. It’s a steel structure," said Joey Brochure, the project supervisor. "The inmates, many who have worked with us on earlier brick and mortar projects, have adapted real well to this job."

After the footings and columns were in place, a contractor went to work in January assembling the steel trusses at the construction site. Then they brought in two large cranes that hoisted the steel girders into place. The girders run 136 feet across from one edge of the building to the other.

The inmate construction crew has prepared the plumbing and electrical work. They have poured the flooring. Right now, they are pouring the foundation for the loading dock at the rear of the building. They hope to have a roof on the building by June and complete the project by the end of the year.

This is the fourth major project the prisoner construction program has tackled. Since 1993, Engineering staff have supervised prison work crews in construction of the Dan River Prison Work Farm in Yanceyville, Tyrrell Prison Work Farm at Columbia, and a new housing unit at IMPACT-East at Hoffman.

Many of the prisoners working on the project at Columbus have been a part of the construction program from the start.

The Correction Central Engineering Office worked with the North Carolina Department of Labor to establish an apprenticeship program for the inmate construction crews. The prisoners are required to meet the same standards as anyone else who serves an apprenticeship.

This month Mark Brower of Robbins became the first of the inmate construction workers to complete the three-year program. Brower completed 6,000 hours of supervised work and more than 400 hours in the classroom to earn his electrician journeyman’s card.

"I love the work because of the challenge. It means a lot to me," Brower said. "Our work in the construction program gives us a chance to prove that we can do something positive."

Brower got his start as an electrician in a vocational class at Harnett Correctional Institution. His hard work in class earned him an assignment in a construction project at Harnett. From there he worked as an apprentice electrician at Dan River, Tyrrell and IMPACT-East before starting work on the tailoring plant at Columbus.

There are 21 prisoners in the apprenticeship program. Three more inmates may earn their journeyman’s card in the next three months.


NC DOC Homepage
E-mail NC DOC