Imagine sleeping in bed with a ‘hurly burly’ prisoner. No, this is not some sort of sick, twisted joke. In fact, take a good look around your dorm room at the furniture provided for you from the university. These desks and chairs do not come from your typical furniture store. Residence Life at Sam Houston State University purchases most of their furnishings from Texas Correctional Industries (TCI).
TCI is a part of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which was established in 1963 after a bill was passed that allows the department to sell prison made items to government and tax supported agencies.
The work program gives prisoners the opportunity to gain skills in various jobs while they are serving time. Prisoners also document their work history for future job opportunities.
According to the TCI Web site, “TCI is committed to providing quality training and work opportunities for eligible incarcerated offenders that facilitate successful reintegration upon release.”
The program is volunteer-based and inmates receive payment from the private company. Deductions are taken to go toward room and board, family support, restitution and funds for crime victims.
Though factories are wide spread throughout the state, most are found in East Texas, which includes Huntsville. The mattresses are manufactured in the Wynne Mattress Factory at the Wynne Unit, which is located here in Huntsville.
Mattresses and other dorm room furniture including couches, coffee tables and end tables are not the only items that SHSU is purchasing from TCI. Inmates in the program craft the podiums that many SHSU professors lecture from. Other items that the university purchases from TCI include desks and chairs.
Students have mixed opinions when it comes to knowing that it is a prisoner who is making the furniture around campus.
“I think it gives individuals who are serving time a chance to benefit the community around them,” said sophomore mass communications major Michael Oder.
Freshman general studies major Bobbie Spiers has a different outlook on the situation.
“I think it’s weird because they are in prison for doing bad things and now they’re making the beds we sleep in,” she said.
TCI is also responsible for making many other useful items including graphics like signs, awards and plastics, janitorial supplies such as soap, detergent, mops and wax applicators. Prisoners are also responsible for making garment and textile goods like clothing, linens, tote bags and leather goods.
Other interesting goods that inmates make are metal objects like truck beds and trailers, park equipment, bleachers, toilets, sinks and showers. All products meet the Texas Building and Procurement Commission (TBPC) standards. By purchasing products from TCI, department costs are significantly reduced.
People and agencies eligible to purchase products from TCI are city, state, public schools and universities and political subdivisions. Sorry Bearkats, students cannot buy these products.
For more information about TCI and the products they sell, go to http://tci.tdcj.state.tx.us/.