Prison Road Trip
Yesterday, Shawna and I took a trip up north to the prison in Pendleton to meet with our line team (inmates) and production management. This was my first trip to the prison. And for Shawna, one of many over almost a decade. Shawna knew what not to wear, what not to bring in, what not to talk about, etc. Shawna really knows how to 'walk the line.'
So, is it a little scary walking ‘on the yard’ shoulder to shoulder with inmates? Well let’s say it isn’t life-threatening but on the other hand, you really never know what might go down on any given day. However, Shawna and I will both tell you that it’s a hard step into reality knowing that the men all around you are anchored within these prison walls for a long, long time.
Once we pass through the entry guard post, and four locked gates, we enter the massive (77,000 sqft) garment building. Surrounded by inmates again, this giant room seems much more peaceful and secure as the men seem hyper focused on their work.
What surprised me the most was the antiquated sewing machines that they use. Knowing that our iTySE mesh bags are the most durable in the world, and are built with bullet-proof sewing machines that are over 25 years old, is simply amazing. What a testament that new isn’t always better (machines, not bags lol).
Most importantly, I sensed this true feeling of pride when speaking with the inmates on our line. This says a lot when they don’t have much to feel good about while being locked-up. I learned that the job they have in the garment factory, the job iTySE helps provide, is THE best job in the prison.
And for those that don't already know...
1. The salary the inmates earn, while working on the iTySE line, go to child support, victims restitution, court costs, and room and board (in prison).
2. The hourly wage they earn is between $9.50-$11.50 which is above the hourly wage in Oregon.
My huge takeaway: I asked the management team if there was anything extra we could do for the inmates to show our appreciation for their hard work. I asked about sending pizza, or other creative ideas, but what they proposed surprised me.
The managers told us that these guys don’t have a lot to be proud of because of their past. They told Shawna and I that if we could prepare letters of achievement, not emails, but actual paper letters, they would likely share it with their parents, wives, and children as a sense of pride.
Thinking that a piece of paper, with the iTySE letterhead and signed by Shawna, could make a person's day-month-year, was pretty inspiring. As Shawna always says, and I agree 100%, it's a total God-thing!
Knowing that this iTySE letter could possibly change a life...Priceless.
Sorry for the long-winded post! I just had to let all of our awesome customers/friends know that the vision/mission that Shawna had over 10 years ago, is really making a huge difference in the lives of those who need it most.