Inmates Study Carpentry To Assit Find A Job When They Are Released

Lorenzo Reyes applied masking tape to the edge of a almost built cornhole game set.

A few more strokes of paint and the ramplike boards would prepare for a customer to pick up at the Land O’ Lakes Jail.

Reyes, 63, of Port Richey, is one of several inmates who participate in a carpentry program recently established by the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office to teach inmates skills they may can use after their release.

Reyes, who works in a hydroponics program at the jail as well, said the work helps time go by. He was jailed in May for driving under the influence and driving with a suspended or revoked license.

“I just try to stay active and keep myself busy,” Reyes said, as another inmate sanded wood nearby. “My father was a carpenter, so I always helped him out.”

Study Carpentry

In addition to cornhole boards, inmates produce Adirondack chairs, cafe tables and picnic tables as well.

Reyes said the chairs are the hardest items to build, because there are more wooden pieces “and a lot of screws.”

And in spite of his carpentry experience, Reyes said he had to learn “their way” of building the chairs.

Sheriff’s Lt. Warren Jones leads the carpentry program, which started in August.

Jones credited Sheriff Chris Nocco for envisioning the program.

“Our main motivation is to give them a marketable skill for when they get out” of jail, Jones said. “Any money we raise is used to fund our inmate welfare program, which pertains to their commissary, phone calls and video visitation, as well as their TV, underwear, socks and hygiene items.”

Inmates do not get directly paid for their work.

Adult Adirondack chairs are $95, while children’s Adirondacks are $45. Cornhole games — with cornhole bags also made by inmates — are $125. Large, 8-foot picnic tables are $299, while kids’ picnic tables are $60.

All orders are done online through PayPal. Because the sheriff’s office does not ship the items, they must be picked up at the jail.

“It’s been busy the last couple of weeks with Christmas approaching,” Jones said.

The woodworking program is housed on the bottom floor of a two-story building recently constructed near the hog farm, chicken coop and hydroponics area at the jail.

Study Carpentry

“We do everything out here,” said sheriff’s Deputy Keith Stoecker. “Some of the older come out and show us some tricks every once in a while. We’re not pros at this, and they’re always giving us hints.”

Sheriff’s Sgt. Jeff Mason said every table, chair and cornhole game sold to the public is high quality. A sheriff’s office sticker is affixed to each item.

He showed off a couple of cornhole games with slight paint blemishes or places where a router put a small gash in the wood; those items are not for sale.

“When we put the sheriff’s office name on it, we want it to be done right,” he said.