Maine State Prison draws Black Friday shoppers |

Maine State Prison draws Black Friday shoppers

The Associated Press
A life-sized carving made of Maine basswood is displayed in the front window of the Maine Prison Store on Friday, in Thomaston, Maine. The Maine prison system has two stores that sell the handicrafts of inmates — everything from cutting boards to Adirondack chairs. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

THOMASTON, Maine — Ken and Judy Carreras got up before sunrise and drove for an hour to find their Black Friday treasure — an acorn-shaped birdfeeder crafted by an inmate in Maine State Prison.

“For me, I would much rather spend the money on something that is locally crafted,” Judy Carreras of Stockton Springs said as the couple and other patrons huddled in their cars in subfreezing temperatures, waiting for the prison’s craft showroom to open.

The sale at the Thomaston showroom, four miles from Maine State Prison in Warren, resembled a traditional Black Friday sale in many ways. The store opened an hour early, at 8 a.m., and reduced prices by 40 percent. A similar sale took place in the Maine Prison Industries outlet store in Windham, which cut prices 30 percent.

The Thomaston showroom attracted dozens of cars full of patrons in its first hour as buyers ogled ornamental wooden ball-and-chain sets and checked prices on porch furniture. Bookshelves, children’s toys, paintings, cutting boards, rocking horses and even models of the USS Constitution — all made as part of an inmate work program — were also on sale to the public.

Items range from $1.95 pencil holders to a $100,000 sculpture of the Roman god Neptune and a mermaid riding a motorcycle. The USS Constitution models, which retail for $2,150, were sold out by midday Friday.

Maine Prison Industries manager Ken Lindsey said sales from the work program total more than $1 million per year. Prisoners are paid $1 to $3 per hour, which must first go toward court restitution and child support payments, but more importantly, the program teaches inmates job skills and people skills that they can use on release, Lindsey said.

“We have, possibly, a murderer working next to child molester or a pedophile,” Lindsey said. “You have to get along, learn people skills. When you get out, on the streets, you might have someone you don’t like, but you have to work for them.”

The showroom does not advertise which inmates made specific handicrafts, but most of the prisoners who have been at the lockup for “any amount of time have probably had an opportunity” to work in the program, he said.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.