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

Prisoners repair surplused state computers for schools

MAY 17, 1999

LILLINGTON — School children across the state are benefiting from an innovative recycling program that uses inmate labor to refurbish old, worn-out computers.

As part of its award-winning Computers for Schools program, State Surplus Property has begun sending used computers to Harnett Correctional Institution for repair by inmates enrolled in the prison’s electronic servicing class. Once the inmates get the computers up and running, they are distributed to schools across the state under the direction of State Surplus Property for a nominal service fee of $20 per computer.

The Computers for Schools program was implemented by State Surplus Property in 1997 as a way to place more computers into the public school system by recycling computers designated as surplus property. Since the beginning of the program, more than 3,000 computer systems have been placed in classrooms, saving school systems across the state more than $5 million.

Having only limited resources to repair the computers themselves, State Surplus turned to Harnett Correctional Institution for help. With an established electronic servicing curriculum offered through Central Carolina Community College already in place, the prison had an experienced inmate labor pool available to help with the repair work.

Bill Tyson, the prison’s on-site administrator for CCCC, said the community college has been providing the two-semester electronic servicing curriculum to inmates at Harnett for the past 10 years. He said inmates enrolled in the program learn skills for troubleshooting and repairing personal computers.

Since the beginning of the year, the inmates enrolled in the program have been hard at work repairing and refurbishing the surplus computers. The first batch of these inmate-recycled computers was delivered to the students at Harnett Central Middle School during the school’s PTA meeting May 11. Along with computers, the school also received computer tables built by inmates enrolled in the prison’s carpentry program.

As soon as the first batch of computers was completed, the inmates immediately went to work repairing more computers for other schools across the state.

"This is a wonderful program," said Joseph Hall, assistant superintendent at Harnett Correctional Institution. "It gives the inmates something productive to do and the opportunity to help society. This is a win-win-win situation. The inmates feel good about themselves, the students are getting the chance to have hands-on experience with computers and the taxpayers are saving money. It’s not often that a prison can be involved in a program this positive that benefits everyone involved."

Note: For more information on Harnett Correctional’s electronic servicing curriculum, contact Assistant Superintendent Joseph Hall or Bill Tyson, CCCC’s on-site administrator at 910-893-2751.

For more information on the Computers for Schools program, contact Jeff Nance with the State Surplus at 919-733-3889.

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