North Carolina Department of Correction news release

MAY 22, 1997

MOCKSVILLE - Sparks fly from a torch a Davie Correctional Center prisoner uses to weld the frame of a metal box, as he builds one of the bright yellow trailers that carry tools and provide a toilet for prison work squads. The Davie metal shop is finishing up work now on the latest order of 50 trailers for the Governorís Community Work Program.

"You can see these trailers in nearly every community in the state. As our work program has grown, the metal shop has been able to supply trailers that help our officers safely and efficiently supervise these work squads," said Correction Secretary Mack Jarvis. "These trailers are an example of using prison labor to save taxpayer money and meet our needs."

"It would probably cost about $3,000 to buy a trailer like this, but we can build them for about $900 to $1,000," said Wendell Sain, the metal shop manager.

The metal shop has a team of 18 prisoners who form an assembly line of cutters, welders, grinders and painters that build each trailer. The prisoners build a frame twelve feet long on a chassis and weld together a metal box with three long shelves for storing tools and a side storage compartment. The metal assembly is painted and the toilet is fitted in place.

"The prisoners do great work," Sain said. "Everybody has been pleased with how the trailers pull and handle."

The metal shop found skilled welders who were assigned to the prison. And Sain trained others to use the saws and tools in the shop. Skilled workers who weld or use power tools earn one dollar a day. Painters, janitors and other workers earn seventy cents a day.

Once the trailers are built, Sain gets tags and titles for them and then sends them to the prisons.

"When not working on the trailers we build beds, gun lockers, deposit boxes or just about anything made from metal that prisons need," Sain said ."We can work with stainless steel, steel or aluminum."

Prisoners are put to work in the community work program under the supervision of a correctional officer on short term, manual labor projects for public agencies and local governments. The program was piloted in 1994 at Greene Correctional Center, expanded to 18 prisons in 1995, 35 in 1996 and more squads are being added this year.