Inmate Construction

This isn't just any construction site. It's the Warm Springs Correctional Center and these workers are Nevada prison inmates. They're part of a program that's been operating here for two years. As many as 20 inmates at a time, learning the construction trade under the guidance of vocational instructor John Vandermeer.

"I've actually had a guy that didn't know how to read a tape measure,” Vandermeer explains.

One of those guys was Lamar Rowell, "Now I can build a house up from the ground."

Lamar can look around at projects he's helped build. Everything from dog houses, sheds, modular units for a home, even a child's playhouse for a charity auction, a Western jail, finished inside and out. Lamar is serving time for theft, it's his second time behind bars

With no marketable skills, it was it was easy to fail the first time. He's up for parole this fall and if he gets it, he says it will be a different Lamar Rowell that walks out the gate.

"A lot of these guys worked and then fell I won't fall,” Rowell says.

Mike Stanley another Inmate says if you put a man in prison, he has to resort to what he learned, nothing. Mike is Lamar's roommate and is one of the newest trainees, but he says it's already making a difference.

"As you build for a man to build himself up it gives you dignity, respect. It restores your manhood,” says Stanley.

Twenty-six inmates have graduated from this program in its two years. Almost all of them are now holding down jobs, making it on the outside. That success story may not be enough to keep the program going, however. The grant that funded it ran out last week. The Builders Association stepped in with interim funding to keep it going another month, but its future is still very much in doubt.

Stephanie Humphrey is the warden, at Warm Springs; she says they would like to keep it going. So the search is on for new source of funding. If it isn't found, all this building and rebuilding of lives will come to an end.


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