Inmates learn marketable skill while serving time

CARSON CITY, Nev. (KOLO) -- If you didn't know we were behind ten foot fences and barbed wire, you'd think we were on the production floor of a furniture factory.

A desk built by Silver State Prison Industries. Photo by Terri Russell/KOLO.

And we are--sort of.

This is one of the many prison industry programs at Northern Nevada Correctional Center.

About 36 inmates are currently in the program.

Most start here with zero experience.

Some end up like Cameron Covington who is now a finish carpenter.

“You have to have an eye to not put out substandard materials,” says Cameron Covington, and inmate in the program. “You know. It has to be beautiful when it leaves and it has to be perfect and nothing else is acceptable,” he says.

All phases of furniture manufacturing happens right here.

From cutting, to sanding, to staining, even upholstery are all done.

Inmates are heavily screened as they work with power tools, and chemicals.

They take pride in their work.

“We do not advertise,” says William Quenga, Deputy Director of industrial programs at the prison. “So, if we produce a quality product, that person will talk about us and how great it is. And then they will pass it on and continue. We are competitive yes,” he says.

Quenga says they can get orders for one piece of furniture, or an entire business.

There are also requests to do piece work.

Through it all, the inmates get paid for their eight hour shifts.

The wages vary.

But inmates can work towards certification and can have a marketable skill when they leave prison..

Take a look at the production board, you can see who has placed an order.

At the Supreme Court library new desks arrived last fall to replace a center reception desk.

At the capitol where our state's executive officers work, prison industry furniture is not uncommon.

The Secretary of State's reception area received a face lift recently with a new reception desk, and new frames for pictures of all Nevada's Secretaries of State.

More information on prison industries.