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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Prisoners put welding skills to work on gifts for local kids

Tracy PressSeveral inmates serving life sentences at Deuel Vocational Institution spoke about the
satisfaction of providing refurbished bicycles for local children as they showed off their handiwork on Sept. 12.

“It feels good to give back instead of taking,” one inmate, Jose Rodriguez, said. “I did it to put a smile on a kid’s face.”

Through a joint effort of Tracy Police Department, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tracy and DVI, abandoned and unclaimed bicycles collected by police are delivered to the prison. Inmates in the welding program clean and repair them to be given as holiday gifts to children chosen by the Boys & Girls Clubs.

The program was initiated by police Chief Gary Hampton in 2012, but budget cuts meant police officials could not pay for parts to fix the donated bicycles. To fill in the gap, Tracy Police Officers Association recently donated $250 for repairs.

“I think it’s a win-win-win,” Hampton said. “We’re creating a program where a person serving a sentence can give back to the community and police officers can provide monetary support. At the end of it all, we have the youth who benefits from a bicycle that may otherwise not have one.”

Before receiving the money from the patrolmen’s association, inmates started repairing bicycles donated in August by cannibalizing a batch of bikes donated the year before, according to Tim Valouch, DVI maintenance mechanic. continue reading...

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