A northwest Indiana company is partnering with the Indiana Department of Correction to give inmates at Westville Correctional Facility a unique opportunity. A plant built inside the prison’s walls is designed to allow inmates to learn manufacturing skills and potentially earn an opportunity after release. “Just pulling up to the facility, you see these tall fences, the razor wire – it’s very daunting,” said Brent Kaper with Gold Standard Truss. “Once we got in there and we got to hear the offenders and hear their stories, they’re people just like everybody else and we want to give them an opportunity.”
In an exclusive interview with Around INdiana Reporter Mary-Rachel Redman, Kaper said he took a tour of the prison and visualized a manufacturing facility.
“There were guys just working and working and working,” said Kaper. “And I talked to one of the managers and I said, ‘How many of these guys would you hire after they got released?’ and he said probably 85%-90%. And when I walked out, there’s another building off to the side and I asked the tour guide what was happening in there and he said it was empty and it just kind of clicked. A couple days later, we made the decision to partner up with IDOC.”
The goal of the new joint venture partnership is to teach inmates valuable manufacturing skills that they can use once they leave prison and at the new location inside Westville Correctional Facility, inmates will learn how to build trusses.
“What Gold Standard Truss is doing, they’re actually bringing in a truss manufacturing company, so they’re bringing in state-of-the-art equipment, making a very good investment here in the state of Indiana,” said Lloyd Arnold, chief operating officer of Indiana Correctional Industries.
The nearly $1.5 million investment turned the once-empty building on the prison grounds into a first-rate manufacturing facility about the size of a football field that will employ about 30 inmates beginning next month.
“They’ll be learning how to build walls, build roof trusses and build floor trusses,” said Kaper. “We also intend to kind of expand that training program to framing carpentry itself, so actually how to then install what they’ve built and how to stand them up in the field, put them all together and build a house.”
Arnold says having such a facility inside the prison walls gives the inmates a sense of freedom and a purpose. Kaper adds the facility will help provide a pipeline of talent.
“One of the biggest challenges right now outside of the facility is finding a strong workforce that has a good work ethic,” said Kaper. “These guys are excited about the opportunity to come to work every day. The alternative is sitting in their cell. We looked at that dedication that we feel we’re going to have from the workforce and we really saw that advantage.”
Another advantage is increased production volumes. Kaper says it will double the company’s current production capacity.