Behind Bars - Doing Press Time
Managers of prison in-plants must deal with tight security, regulated hours, high turnover and endless training—and still put out quality work on time.
by Bob Neubauer
When the metal doors lock behind you, and you step into the wind-swept courtyard, edged with guard towers and razor wire, you know you're in prison.
Heavily tattooed men with matted ponytails leap and shuffle on the basketball court, shooting curious glances as you pass.
Others play handball or work out with weights, all of them eyeing you, sizing you up. Overhead, guards in sunglasses stare down from their towers with stoic faces, their rifles ready.
No false moves are advised.
But once you pass through a door marked Silver State Industries, the unsettling world of prison life slips away, replaced by the pulsing energy of a print shop—an oasis of normalcy in a tight-security zone.
Here, in the middle of the Nevada State Prison in Carson City sits a 21-employee in-plant. Like in-plants everywhere, the shop has a collection of presses and bindery gear, and is run by a staff of busy, quality-conscious employees. But there's one major difference: this staff can't go home at day's end.
"You've got to always remember that there's a 'fence', per se. You're on one side and they're on the other side," remarks Supervisor Jim Padgett, the shop's only civilian employee. "And you still have to maintain a working atmosphere."
Such is the dilemma of prison in-plant managers. Theirs is a world where simple tasks like giving an employee a screwdriver must be strictly regulated; where a skilled worker can be transferred without notice; where many employees have no prior work experience. Despite all this, managers have to carry on.
"I try to look at it as a business," says Padgett. "I try to treat these individuals as employees."