LAND O’ LAKES, Fla. (WFLA) – Inmates at the Pasco County Jail are learning new sets of skill to keep them out of jail after they are released.
Deputy Stoecker oversees the entirety of the Inmate Welfare Program. He spoke to News Channel 8 about the woodworking vocational program, where things inmates make are then sold on the sheriff’s office website.
“You name it. Send us a picture and if it’s made out of wood, we’ll make it for ya,” Deputy Stoecker said.
Inmates are building, staining and finishing everything from Adirondack chairs, to picnic tables to cornhole boards.
The program has been around for almost 5 years. The online store is more recent.
The program is self-sustaining. The funds raised through the website are used to purchase new materials.
All inmates who participate are non-violent offenders with no fleeing to elude charges.
Deputy Stoecker says some people have misconceptions.
“One thing that people do talk about is, ‘well we don’t want to give the inmates money’ to buy the product. Some people have that perception. But would you rather have them be robbing a store?! We’re here building things, being able to go out and get a job and function in society,” he said.
Deputy Stoecker says the inmates are learning life skills that will aid them on the outside, hopefully ensuring they won’t be back in the Pasco County Jail.
“Well they’re learning to get along. They’re learning to wake up on time and do what everyone else in the county does,” he said.
“We usually very, very, very rarely have any issues with them. They want to be out here. They want to work.”
Deputy Stoecker said the biggest challenge with the program is getting good people.
“We always have a shortage of inmates,” he said, also saying that’s a good thing.
Other Inmate Welfare programs include a welding program where inmates can become certified to become welders, a construction program with crews who work on buildings around the county, a sewing program and road and cleaning crews. Deputy Stoecker said inmates also care for dogs at Animal Control five days a week.
All things crafted by the inmates can be seen by clicking here. Prices range from $300 for a tallet table and benches to $25 for a pallet American flag.