North Carolina Department of Correction news release

MAY 18, 1998

Pender Prisoners Sew Ferry Workers' Uniforms

BURGAW - During your vacation travels along North Carolina’s coast this spring and summer, be sure to make a special point to check out one of the state’s newest attractions - the uniforms worn by employees of the North Carolina Ferry Service.

While they may not be as exciting as the seagulls that hover over the boat begging for food, the employees’ new uniforms are certainly worth noticing. Especially once you realize they were made by prisoners at Pender Correctional Institution.

More than 100 medium security inmates work in the sewing plant at Pender, spending 40-hour weeks behind sewing machines producing top-quality garments. Divided between two eight-hour shifts, the inmates normally spend their days making inmate pants and the pants and jackets worn by the Department of Correction’s maintenance staff and correctional officers. Sewing uniforms for the Ferry Service is a brand new endeavor for the plant.

Produced from a 65-35 poly-cotton blend, the 3,000 pairs of khaki pants being sewn for the Ferry Service are specially sized to fit each employee. In addition to the ferry uniforms, Charlie Martin, plant manager at Pender, said the inmates are also in the process of making uniform pants for correctional officers employed by the Iowa Department of Corrections.

Martin said the inmates are initially making 320 pairs of pants - enough to outfit correctional staff working at Iowa’s newest prison.

From cutting the material to making pockets and inserting zippers, Martin said the inmates do it all.

"Surprisingly, they do very well," he said. "These guys come in here with no sewing experience. We start them out sewing on scraps. The staff instructs them, and once they get the hang of it, we put them to work on the garments."

Sitting in rows, each with his own sewing machine, the inmates are expected to work and work hard during their eight-hour shift in the plant. "We run this factory just like any factory on the outside," Martin said. "We expect the inmates to come into our plants and work."

Larry Cribb, a director with Correction Enterprises who oversees the prison’s sewing plant, said the Ferry Service uniforms and the pants for the Iowa Department of Corrections are the first uniforms that the inmates have ever made for a state division other than DOC, and he hopes they won’t be the last.

"By producing good, quality products on time, we hope this will lead to more business from other government-supported agencies and possibly from other states," he said. "We pride ourselves in producing high-quality garments."

The sewing plant at Pender is one of six sewing plants run by Correction Enterprises in prisons across the state. A seventh sewing plant is currently under construction at Columbus Correctional Center.