As Pulaski County officials look at rearranging facilities at the Pulaski County Justice Center, a local volunteer is asking them to consider adding for a wood shop for jail inmates. Dr. Ed Hollenberg brought the idea to the county commissioners last week.
He said it would be an extension of the responsibility classes he’s been offering inmates for the past 15 years. “I have 13 sessions with them, and after that, I give them a diploma,” he explained. “But it would be more effective, I believe, offering them something to do. As you probably know, for many prisons and many, many county jails, it’s a warehouse, and it’s a waste house for their talents. There are many talented people coming through the jails.”
Hollenberg said that adding a wood shop could help solve those problems. “I could see the possibility, in the basement, of a shop, and it wouldn’t take a very big space. It wouldn’t,” he said. “All I’d have to do is have a laser, and a laser doesn’t take up much room. There are a number of people interested in laser, and I have thousands of quotes that I would like to see put on wood.”
Hollenberg felt that making plaques with inspirational sayings would not only give inmates a chance to hone their skills, but it would also reinforce what they learn in his class. He said his goal is to rehabilitate inmates, and reduce the recidivism rate, as well as domestic violence in the county.
Sheriff Jeff Richwine said that while Hollenberg’s programs’ effects on recidivism still remain to be seen, they do appear to have an impact on inmates. “Back before I was sheriff, he got a hold of me, and we went to the prison down by Grissom and went in there,” Richwine told the commissioners. “That program was going there then. He didn’t go teach it. He had a person like he’s trying to do here now, a mentor, that taught it there, and there was almost 200 people in that, that looked at Dr. Hollenberg like this is the messiah or something. I’m telling you, they were impressed with him. They had changed their lives and it was all good, and that’s the reason why I’ve allowed him such access to our jail.”
Richwine said any decision about adding a wood shop to the Justice Center would be up to the commissioners. Commissioner Mike McClure felt it was worth considering.