TULSA, Okla. -- It is a colorful addition to the Downtown Tulsa skyline. And the inside of the Family Center for Juvenile Justice is every bit as appealing. “We all have brand new furniture and it’s fantastic,” Said Department of Corrections Board member Kathryn LaFortune.
Until recently, this complex was a blank canvas. But Department of Corrections inmates have been busy, filling the center with quality furniture. Matthew Orton with OCI said, “This is one of the biggest projects we’ve ever tackled.”
Oklahoma Correctional Industries supplied the furnishings for more than one hundred offices, waiting areas, court rooms – more than 151,000 square feet of floor space. Some inmates even contributed to the inspiring wall decor. Administrative Assistant Sharla Halencak said, “I want to put the inmate art up here and display it. We need to show their talent and if we can sell it, it’ll get some money for them too.”
There are 11 institutions that offer job training for inmates – everything from custom embroidery to specialized cabinetry. According to OCI Operations Coordinator, Bob Tomlinson, “They go to Career Tech classroom training and then they get their hands on training. Upon graduation they are recognized as a U.S. Department of Labor Journeyman cabinet maker.”
OCI also employs inmates in this metal fabrication factory. The inmates built benches, chairs and other fixtures for the Juvenile Justice Center. Orton said, “They get out, get their work skills, se what’s going on, get some self pride – that’s our whole project. These guys get those skills, self confidence so they are comfortable with what they can do when they get out.”
Everyone is singing their praises over this massive project. Dr. LaFortune said, “They do a beautiful job. They are always respectful. I was so impressed with everyone.”
These men and hundreds more are collecting traits and skills to help them succeed on the outside, while saving Oklahoma taxpayers. It is another OCI project to be proud of.