The Nevada State Prison began a new business Friday when it celebrated the grand opening of its Hobby Craft Store.
Housed in a new building built with inmate donations, the store is stocked with handmade goods, such as leather purses and polished wooden boxes, made by the inmates. Proceeds will benefit Empire Elementary School and Nevada Hispanic Services.
"It's a perfect time of year to open because people like things that are handcrafted and personal for Christmas and it benefits a worthy cause," said Empire Principal Pat Carpenter.
She said in the three years since her school was adopted by the prison as a Partner in Education, Empire students have benefited from $5,000 worth of new equipment made possible by the money donated from inmate craft sales.
Associate Warden of Programs James Baca said inmates purchase the materials to create the items, and proceeds above those donated to the two causes go to refurbish supplies and for in-prison projects such as a basketball court recently paid for through inmate donations.
"(Crafting) provides (inmates) an outlet that reduces violence and allows the release of emotions," he said. "We are trying to instill good moral and ethical values in these inmates here. If we can salvage people, we want to salvage them."
Baca said for the past three years, inmate crafts have been on display during summer prison craft fairs. The community response to those shows has been overwhelming and he's convinced that will carry over to the success of the store.
There are few rules to what buyers can purchase and ideas are not limited to the shelves which line the walls of the tiny shop. If a customer likes a pair of moccasins, he or she may give the clerk his or her shoe size and a pair will be crafted especially for that person. If they want a leather purse or notebook, or checkbook with their name engraved, they need only ask, he said. All pre-ordered items are paid for in advance in the same way all the items will be paid for - check or money order.
Buyers can spend as little as $2.30 on a leather key chain with an initial and up to a couple hundred dollars for handcarved and painted rock signs to adorn a driveway or lawn, he said.
"We welcome the public's support and they'll support Empire Elementary School," Baca said. "We are looking at improving kids' lives out there and the inmates get a good feeling when they are helping people."
Contact reporter F.T. Norton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1213.
IF YOU GO
What: Nevada State Prison Hobby Craft Store
Where: 3301 E. Fifth St.
Open: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday through Thursday