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Prison Outreach – Maine

About the program
The Fine Woodworking Program at the Maine State Prison is an outreach venture of the American Furniture Masters Institute, operating under the authority of the Maine Department of Corrections. The program, led by Brian Reid, Howard Hatch and Jeffrey Cooper, teaches beginning to advanced makers the skills of fine furniture making through a structured, solid curriculum.

The program, started in 2012, takes place within the large Prison Industries woodshop at the prison in Warren where hundreds of items are made for sale at the Prison Store in Thomaston and on commission. With the enthusiastic support of the prison administration, the Fine Woodworking Program accepts up to 12 inmates who show exceptional attitude and aptitude in the woodshop. The program offers many benefits for inmates; incentive for good behavior, an outlet for creativity and a way to develop woodworking skills at a Master level as well as interpersonal and disciplinary skills and a level of self-respect that could provide post-incarceration career opportunities.

A participant in the Maine Prison Outreach program working on a piece

A participant in the Maine Prison Outreach program working on a piece

A participant in the Maine Prison Outreach program working on a piece

How to participate
All inmates at the Maine State Prison have assigned jobs where they work Monday – Friday. The Fine Woodworking Program is available only outside of working hours; on weekends or at other times when there is some time allocated for optional activities. Inmates apply to take part in the program and admission is determined by the Department of Corrections staff.

The participants are led through a structured progression, a curriculum, of micro-steps that teaches skills and respect for the materials and tools of the craft.  Early lessons start with hand cut joinery including the dovetail and mortice and tenon joints. After showing competency in the use of hand tools students can move on to training in power tools, drafting and designing. In addition to learning how to use and care for the tools, participants must learn the characteristics of various types of wood and how it reacts to changes in environment and humidity over time.  Due to the limited number of hours per week that the fine furniture workshop is open, this is no crash course in woodworking, however, participants come to the workshop eager to make the most of the six hours allotted each Sunday, plus free time during the work week when entire woodworking facility is fully staffed.

Moving forward
The Prison Outreach Program in the Maine State Prison remains an integral part of the lives of its participants behind bars. The ultimate goal of the program is to reduce the level of recidivism and to enable inmates to move on to viable career paths upon their release from prison. To date, none of the inmates who have participated in AFMI’s Prison Outreach Programs and been released have ended up back in prison.

Supporting the Maine Prison Outreach Program
Work can be purchased at the Maine State Prison Showroom in Thomaston, or by commission. Please contact Howard Hatch if you are interested in having a piece commissioned and he will pass along the inquiry.

We are proud to share that in the coming months of 2019, prisoner’s work will be for sale in the Maine Craft Association’s two stores: Maine Craft Portland and the Center for Maine Craft in West Gardiner.

To make a tax-deductible donation to the Prison Outreach Program, click here. Your generous contribution helps us purchase wood materials, tools and machine equipment. Please note in the comment box if you would like your donation to go directly to the Maine program.

Thank you for your support.