Corcoran Inmates Help Clean Air

May 23, 2008 7:49:11 PM PDT
Inmates from Corcoran State Prison are helping to reduce air pollution in the South Valley. It's all part of a new bicycle program in Visalia.Behind the barbed wire and the tall walls at Corcoran State Prison sits a bike shop that many people in the South Valley may not know about.

Corcoran inmate Melvin Spain says, "Every day you learn something new in here, it seems like."

When they're not in their prison cells, these inmates spend most of their time refurbishing old unwanted bikes. Melvin Spain says, "We sand them down and pretty much take all the rust and all the bad spots off."

Caesar Lopez, Corcoran inmate, says "We make sure that they're safe and sound so that when we do put them back in the community, everything is safely put together in its proper order"

Now, the inmates have taken on a new project called "Vi-Cycle." The city of Visalia wants to recycle bikes and sell them to downtown businesses to give to their employees.

Shawn Ogletree, Visalia Natural Resources Department says "It will reduce congestion. It will also free up available parking for patrons downtown since the employees will be using their bicycles to go back and forth to work."

The inmates have already finished and delivered 12 bikes to the city. Melvin Spain says, "We put little stickers on it that says "Vi-Cycle" on it." The inmates say being a part of the project has given them new skills and hope for themselves when they get out of prison.

Corcoran inmate, Marc Close, says, "I think it's a great idea. I think more cities need to get involved in programs like that for the environment and clean air and stuff like that. Not so much for us but for our children and grandchildren."

Many of the inmates we talked to said working at the bike shop is a good way for them to give back to the community while they're serving their time. They say it's a healing process for them. With each turn of a screw, sanding of rust and turn of a gear, the inmates seem to also be putting their lives back together ? one piece at a time.

Marc Close says, It gives me a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. It's turning a negative into a positive for me and it's giving back."

Caesar Lopez says, "We're in here for a reason, I know that. But this makes us feel good."

And that's just one more reason these bikes will do more than help clean the air.


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