Nearly every fourth Tuesday of the month, a shabby batch of bicycles arrives at the gates of Folsom State Prison.
Members of the Cameron Park Rotary Club collect the misfit bicycles from a warehouse in Diamond Springs, California, and send them off to Folsom to be repaired, repainted, and restored. Prisoners work year-round to refurbish the bicycles for area schoolchildren to receive at Christmas.
“They love it because they get to do something constructive for the kids,” says Jeff Rumsey, the officer in charge of recycling at Folsom. He explained to Inside CDCR that some bicycles are beyond repair, but some are worth renovating. Come Christmastime, those lucky bikes will be spreading cheer to dozens of grateful kids.
Argueta Mauricio, who has four children of his own, heard of the project from a previous worker at Folsom. Having worked with tools since age seven, Mauricio jumped at the chance to use his mechanical skills behind bars.
According to VillageLife.com, prisoners are eligible to participate if they have mechanical skills, a record of good behavior, and no more than 42 months left on their sentence. They readily replace seats, brakes, tires, and other parts as needed. In two to six hours of tuning, painting, and polishing, a bike is as good as new.
“The bikes evolved, and I can tell you, it takes a lot of work,” says Chuck LePere, a Rotarian who regularly delivers bicycles to Folsom in his pickup.
Various organizations contribute paint, tools, and other items needed to run the program, making it a true community partnership. “I have so many Rotary projects that I adore, but this is one of my favorites,” says Rotarian Janice Falek.
Men at Folsom have revamped over 8,000 bicycles over the last 25 years. Those bicycles left the prison gates better than they arrived, and prisoners everywhere should be able to do the same.
It is too easily forgotten that the men and women behind bars are more than just prisoners—they are people with skills and talents that, if properly cultivated, can be a great benefit to their communities. The men repairing and restoring bicycles in Folsom Prison are but a small sample of those incarcerated who want to be contributing and productive members of society. Prison Fellowship seeks to encourage and nurture these skills, while preparing those soon-to-be-released prisoners for life outside prison walls. To learn more about the work Prison Fellowship is doing to equip men and women for reentry, click here.