Some prisoners in Monroe Correctional Complex are working to help give someone on the outside the freedom of a bicycle. The Seattle Times has a fantastic story today about the program, which is in its third year of fixing up rides and teaching inmates bike repair skills.
The bikes come from various Snohomish County sources. Some were recovered in theft busts but were never claimed by their owners. Others were left on Community Transit buses and forgotten. Through the program, inmates look over the bikes, make needed repairs, and then send them off to people (mostly kids) who need them. Volunteers of America distributes them to clients, and the Knights of Columbus chapter at St. Michael’s Church in Snohomish donates the funds needed to run the repair shop.
Marvin Chapman pulls a tiny magenta- and plum-colored bicycle off a shelf and begins a careful inspection.
He laments the bike’s condition, judging the white nubby tires inadequate to zip a child around. Nearby, Richard Gillmere turns away from his own repairs on an adult’s mountain bike to assure Chapman they can fix up the little girl’s bike in time for Christmas.
Chapman and Gillmere are among a small crew of inmates at the Monroe Correctional Complex who volunteer their time and labor to repair stolen or abandoned bicycles collected by the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office. Once repaired, the bikes are turned over to human-services groups, which distribute them to needy adults and children.
State Department of Corrections Officer Wayne George, who oversees the program, said that in the three years since they opened the repair shop inside the prison’s Twin Rivers Unit, inmates have refurbished more than 200 bikes.
While the wages these guys are earning for doing this bicycle repairs is ridiculously low, it’s good that it is teaching them some useful skills that might actually lead to gainful employment or at least cut their living expenses once they are outside.