The Hagaman children's library just got a little something from a group of prisoners -- a new circulation desk. Convicts at the maximum security McDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield were the designers, architects and carpenters.
And saved the town a good chunk of dough. According to library director Karen Jensen, it would have cost about $100,000 if traditional contractors did the job. The prisoner-made desk rang in at $14,000, which came from library donations. In 2009, McDougall-Walker "guests" built the library a main circulation desk for $30,000, said Jensen, funded by a grant.
“That was just not something that we could afford,” she said.
She said a library board member suggested going through Correctional Enterprises, a state-run program at McDougall-Walker. The project employs inmates to do carpentry, metal sewing and printing for towns and non-profit organizations to prepare them for a life outside of prison, though some will never be freed, said David Brown, director of Correctional Enterprises.
“This gives them something to do, gets them out of their cell block,” said Brown.
Ten to 15 inmates worked on the desks at Hagaman, he said. “They didn't have any blueprints to follow; they had to actually come up with a design and build it,” said Brown.
The desks were delivered in components and Public Service did the assembly, after having visited McDougall-Walker to learn how to do so, said Brown.
Most of the purchase price went for supplies for the desks, said Brown. Inmates were paid about $1 an hour.
“It may not sound like a whole lot, but inside a prison a dollar an hour is a lot of money,” he said. The dollars go into the inmates' prison accounts to be used at the commissary.
“They get self-gratification,” said Brown. And the library gets an ornate, custom-made new desk.
Not only was the deal a real money-saver, but Jensen said she was pleased with every aspect of the production.
“The work is really high quality and it's custom-built just for us, so it's built for our space and our needs,” she said.
The new children's circulation desk is long and low, and wraps around to create a rectangle when pushed up against the wall. It has plenty of storage space and a swinging gate to keep children from wandering behind it.
“It'll definitely streamline workflow,” said Jensen. “It'll make the process more efficient, more ergonomic.”