by GSA Sue Greenbaum, Currier Museum of Art Class of 2010
It was definitely a different type of tour that 18 GSAs went on one morning in Concord, when we visited the NH Department of Corrections Retail Showroom. We met up with our host, Laura Williams, New Hampshire Correctional Industries, Manager of Sales and Marketing, and made our first stop at one of the Wood Shops. That is where we met Bob Lozeau, Shop Manager for the Sheds. There are currently eight manufacturing shops inside the NH State Prisons. We learned that these shops exist to provide job skills, training and work ethics to support the successful reentry of offenders. They include Print & Graphic Arts, Typesetting & Design, Sign and Plate, Dye Sublimation Printing & Novelty Items, Re-Upholstery and Re-Caning, Restoration & Refinishing, and Furniture Crafting.
As usual, our GSAs had plenty of questions, and we learned a lot that day from Bob. Correction Industries report significant reductions in recidivism rates for those inmates who participate in their programs; 22% vs the state rate of 39%. That is a successful outcome! CIs provide real-world job skills training and experience that supports both male and female inmates with reentry into the workforce. CI strives to make the working conditions replicate those found in private industries.
No offenders are forced to work in CI programs. In fact, in many cases, there is a waiting period of several months to get into a program. Offenders need to meet minimum requirements for the job, and to be cleared to work by the prison. CI job training opportunities are similar to internships or apprenticeship programs, where the emphasis is on learning, gaining experience and making business community connections.
GSA Sandra Chandonnet told us about sheds she had bought 30 years ago from CI that are still in excellent condition!
Next we walked outside and met Chris Lounsbury, Shop Manager for the Fire Wood. We learned how inmates have been helping to run a program to bake bugs out of firewood which is then sold at state campgrounds. A major battle against insects that are attacking New Hampshire's forests takes place in the state's largest gas-fired oven, a converted container, which in reality is a walk-in kiln. The state buys logs that are then cut by chainsaw into 16-inch lengths, and later split into fire wood. The wood is cooked for 90 minutes in the kiln at 160 degrees, cooled, and put into red mesh bags, similar to the large bags I used to see in grocery stores for onions. The bags are sold for $6.00 at all the state campgrounds, from Jericho Mountain State Park in Berlin, NH to Hampton Beach. Approximately 35,000 of these bags are delivered every year for use by campers, close to 300 cords of wood.
Finally we visited the Retail Showroom, where we met Pat Hannigan, Store Manager. We got to see (and purchase if desired) the one of a kind hand-crafted products. Inside we found high-end quality furniture, multi-wood urns, Shaker style baskets, leather goods, wooden acorn bird houses, NH cribbage boards, and so much more. It was breathtaking, and you couldn't help but want to run your fingers over every smooth surface! Much of the CI program is contract work, and they fill orders from hotels, theaters, hospitals, universities, corporations, and individuals. Hobbycraft is a separate recreational program that talented inmates may do on their off time, and many of those products are on display at the retail store. While we were there, Marty Wagner showed us her beautiful wooden storage box, which she had previously custom ordered. She started with one piece of embossed wood that had originally belonged to her mother, and they built the box to match the wood and moldings.
Before we left we each received a wrapped gift tied with a ribbon. Inside each was a really nice NH mug, as well as a refrigerator magnet. What a pleasant surprise!
This is a great place to shop for gifts, especially with the holidays coming up. Their store hours are 9-4, Mon, Tues, Thurs, and Fri, and 10-4 on Sat. Additionally, there is a 25% OFF SALE for the entire store on Black Friday, November 23, 2018 from 9 am - 4 pm! Happy shopping!
The Retail Showroom is located at 312 N. State St, Concord, just across the street from the prison. www.facebook.com/NH-Department-of-Corrections-Retail-Showroom-323289391384308/