North Carolina Department of Correction news release

Caswell Correctional Center prisoners look to expand their tool repair operation

JANUARY 29, 1999

Caswell Correctional Center
Small tool repair shop

Kodell Loftis, Caswell Correctional
Center Assistant Superintendent

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YANCEYVILLE - Confident of their abilities after a year on the job, inmate workers from the Caswell Correctional Center small tool repair shop are looking for more work.

"This shop’s ability to repair and use what we have is a good example of Governor Hunt’s arguments for environmental sustainability," said Acting Correction Secretary Joe Hamilton. "In their work with State Transportation over the last year, the shop has shown it can help save money, time and resources. They’re ready to tackle similar repair jobs for other state agencies and local governments."

Every week state highway shops send boxes of broken tools to the prison. A correction officer checks in the tools and supervises the prisoners who stand over workbenches repairing drills, grinders and saws. Inmate workers use the shop equipment and tool schematics to diagnose the problems. Often they open the tool, spreading the parts across the brightly-lit worktable, cleaning and checking each one.

Frequently, they’re able to repair a tool without having to order new parts. Since their labor is free, it means a $400 electric impact wrench or a $300 grinder is repaired without costs to the state. The shop only charges for the costs of replacement parts and shipping. While the state benefits from putting the damaged tools back into operation, the inmates learn a valuable trade they can use when released.

The idea for the repair shop came from a Department of Transportation employee who asked the prison system if inmates could repair small tools used in highway maintenance. Prison managers found a home for the program at the Yanceyville medium security prison and worked with Piedmont Community College to put the program in place. The prison supplied the shop, supervision and workers, community colleges provided the training and DOT has supplied most of the tools in need of repair.

The 16-week training program prepares the inmates to safely tackle small tool repair jobs.

"The class is good for the basics, but the on-the-job-training is where you learn, especially from the other men that work here," said inmate Ken Gurley of High Point. "We pretty much fix anything anyone will send us."

Frequently needed replacement parts are kept on hand so the repairs can be made quickly to get the tool back into operation in a matter of days.

Prison managers are hoping more government agencies will use the repair operation, and they look to expand to include hydraulic tools such as jacks or cylinders used in backhoes or motorgraders.

"We’re working to make more agencies aware of the shop so they can take advantage of it," said Jim Pierce, the prison’s superintendent. "In addition to Transportation, the Department of Public Instruction maintenance and school bus repair shops are sending tools in for repair now."

EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information, contact Superintendent Pierce at Caswell Correctional Center at 336-694-4531 or Dorothy Ledford at the NC Division of Prison Administration offices at 919-733-3226.

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