Inmates to sell their art, bring in money for their families, victims

SANTA FE (KRQE) – Changing hearts. That’s what representatives with the Corrections Industry say they’re trying to do by creating jobs and programs for inmates. One way they aim to do it is through inmate art projects. Offenders from 11 prisons across the state plan to sell off their art Saturday at the second Inmate Craftsmanship and Trades Fair.

Inmates are excited to showcase their work while bringing in money for themselves, their families and the victims they hurt. They’ve been working on their projects for months, putting in a lot of time and effort. Inmates pay for their own supplies and even use recycled products to craft their masterpieces.

“We’re making coolers out of pallets. We strip down the pallets and add ice coolers to them and make them for a porch or out in a hay barn or something,” explained inmate Ray Thomas.

Thomas works with other inmates to cut down pieces of wood, but he says he’s a big fan of the inmate created grandfather clocks and jewelry boxes.

Thomas is in for for aggravated battery and residential burglary. He’s set to be released in September, but for now, his focus is on giving back to the community. You’ll be able to meet inmates like Thomas, Saturday. There will be inmate representatives at the fair to tell you about the art and to even create it right in front of you. Organizers say it gives them the opportunity to meet people and get their name out there.

Thomas says the projects help inmates prepare for life on the outside.

“I think it’s a really good thing. It teaches them how to work. It gives them a guideline to follow when they get out. It helps them to learn how to be employed and get jobs when they get out,” said Thomas.

Yet, organizers say the projects are rewarding for both inmates and staff.

“I’ve seen the growth, I’ve seen the excitement, I’ve seen a total change in some of the inmates and a change in the staff,” said Acting Corrections Industry Director Anna Martinez.

Martinez says the art projects allow inmates to see life in a whole new way, by seeing people care about what they do and what they have to say. She says a lot of inmates even donate their profits to a charity. Otherwise the funds are divided up- five percent goes to victims, 10-percent goes to the offender’s children and family, 15-percent goes back into CI, five percent goes into savings for when the inmate gets out and the rest (65-percent) goes back to inmates to create more art.

Martinez says the trade fair helps inmates prepare for the future and that means less of a chance they end up in prison again.

“If we can give them any kind of program that helps them succeed, we all succeed,” Martinez said.

The inmates will not collect any money. Corrections officers will be on hand and no sex offenders are allowed. The Inmate Craftsmanship and Trades Fair is Saturday at the penitentiary in Santa Fe from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $5

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