Inmates build furniture as they rebuild lives

- Florida has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country. But in Pasco County, they're not just putting prisoners behind bars, they're putting them to work.

At the Land O' Lakes detention center, the idea is to give inmates a second chance at life by helping them develop new skills.

"We get out about 6:30 in the morning, we're over here right around 7 and we get everything set up and start for the day," said inmate Sean McDonogh, who is doing time for possession of methamphetamine and grand larceny. 

And what are they up so early to get accomplished? Crafting furniture. They work with plenty of lumber and lacquer, and the results are furniture even the Amish would be proud of. 

"A lot of other guys will try to just slide it by and say 'I did it.' You look at it, and I make them fix it," said Deputy Keith Steoecker, one of two officers overseeing the project.

"It was real cool at first because I couldn't even see it in my head, so making the first few chairs was really cool -- going from a skit of wood to a finished product that someone will buy and use. It was really exciting. I'd never done that before," McDonogh continued.

The prison carpentry program started a little under two years ago but it wasn't easy. They had to erect their own building, paint it, and make it ready for the work ahead.  Now, Adirondack chairs, picnic tables even board games are hand crafted by the inmates.

They also do custom work and it's all for sale online

"I think it's cheaper to buy it here," Deputy Steoecker offered.  "It's a higher quality, it's 100 percent American made."

And over at the welding shop, metal takes shape and masterpieces are made.  They're not only building custom barbecues; the deputies believe they're rebuilding lives.

"They're not going to be inmates for very long and the idea is to rehabilitate them or give them something to do when they get out so they can make something of themselves or provide for their families," Deputy Troy Bowen added.


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