North Carolina Department of Correction news release

July 20, 1998

Optical Plant opens at Nash Correctional Institution 

Nashville - Twenty-five inmates at Nash Correctional Institution are participating in an eye-opening experience. Working in the new optical lab at Nash Correctional Institution, the inmates are learning how to make quality eyeglasses for other inmates and state Medicaid recipients.

The optical lab opened May 1. It is the first of its kind in the North Carolina Department of Correction. By working in the lab, the inmates are not only learning the skills necessary to make eyeglasses but also the skills needed to hold down a job once they leave prison.

Optical Lab Manager Phil Driver, Optician Karen Moore and their staff are training prisoners to use the lab's high-tech equipment to manufacture quality eyeglasses.

"I train the inmates and assure the quality and quantity of our work," said Moore who worked in Rocky Mount as an optician for 14 years. "This is a good skill for the prisoners to learn."

After typing the prescription for the glasses into a computer and choosing the proper lens, workers punch that lens's workcode into each computer-connected piece of machinery along the line. Then inmates fit the lens into the machines, which take their instructions from the original computer prescription entry. The machines handle the precision work while the inmates inspect the lens and pass them along the assembly line for grinding and polishing into a final product.

"You have to understand how the equipment works," said Driver, an optician who helped set up an optical lab in a federal prison and has run his own eyeglass business. "Several of the prisoners have mastered their assigned tasks. We=re pleased with the turnaround time and the quality of their work. We're anxious to get more work."

In the first months of operation, the plant has manufactured eyeglasses for prisoners. The lab expects to make about 6,000 eyeglasses a year for the Department of Correction. This fall, the lab begins manufacturing eyeglasses for the North Carolina Division of Medical Assistance. The eyeglass orders for state Medicaid recipients are expected to total about 120,000 a year.

The lab currently employs nine Correction Enterprise staff and 25 prisoners. When the lab reaches full operation, a total of 45 prisoners will be working there.


Nash Correctional Institution Prisoners
Make Eyeglasses in Correction Enterprises plant