Canon City - Irony here is often just reality.
Inmates at Fremont prison are making steel cells that will hold other prisoners for the state's newest prison -- Colorado State Penitentiary II.
The big winners of the new venture will be the state's taxpayers.
"Because there are no steel cell manufacturers in the region -- they are all back East -- we (Colorado Department of Corrections) will have substantial savings by making our own cells for the new prison," said Andy Klinkerman, Correctional Industries manufacturing division manager.
Construction of steel cells is the latest project Correctional Industries is tackling at its metal shop, where inmates also make parts for the prison's furniture shop.
Although construction of CSP II won't start until early next year at the East Canon Prison Complex, fabrication of 948 cells already is under way.
"We've got to be way ahead of it because they will be able to set 200 cells in a week," Klinkerman said.
The plan calls for the inmates to crank out as many as four cells a day so that within the next year to 18 months, all 948 cells will be completed.
The venture will employ an additional 40 inmates in the metal shop, giving a total of 100 inmates work.
Those who come on board will get safety training and many of them will earn vocational welding certificates.
"We try to make it as real-world as possible," Klinkerman said.
The best part of the real-world experience will be the pay. An inmate employed by Correctional Industries can make $85 or even more with incentives each month, as opposed to the average inmate who may be mopping the day hall and making $18 a month.
"That may not sound like much money but an inmate can live like a king in here on $85 a month.
Plus, a portion of their pay goes to victim restitution, some of it to the cost of inmate care and some of it is forced savings that is theirs upon release," Klinkerman explained.
Each 80-square-foot, 7,000-pound cell is built with steel walls, table, stool, bed platform, shelf and audio-visual cabinet.
They also are outfitted with plumbing and light fixtures and will be powder coated with paint and insulated.
The metal shop recently added a huge powder coat paint oven that will be large enough to hold a cell. Inmates also had to build all the assembly jigs to accommodate the cell construction process, said Dave Pagnotta, supervisor of the metal shop.
With the help of an overhead crane, inmates will be able to put together the cells and they will "just keep on moving," Pagnotta said of the assembly process.
Once complete, cells will be transported three at a time from the medium-security Fremont prison to the construction site which is just about a mile away from the metal shop.
When all the cells are set, a separate contractor will outfit each with a door that will be calibrated to operate electronically from the command center.
Colorado State Penitentiary II will be much like the original Colorado State Penitentiary. It will house some of the states most violent offenders who will be locked down 23 hours a day.
Located across the street and just west of the original penitentiary, CSP II will be right next door to the high-security Centennial Correctional Facility where the kitchen staff will prepare and provide the food for the inmates in the new prison.
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