FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - Fred Siegelman proudly walks through a relatively hidden showroom off Leestown Road in Frankfort. He's in charge of all the custom woodwork, office furniture and toys around him that are for sale to the public. "Pretty much if you can imagine it, we can build it," he told WKYT's Miranda Combs.
Kentucky Correctional Industries has been in business since the 1950s, but there's a good chance most people have never heard of it. "We're the best kept secret in the state. And I'm trying to change that," Siegelman said. However, there's nothing secretive about the people crafting and building the items for sale. State prisoners have been a hot topic lately, as leaders try to manage prison overcrowding and high recidivism rates. "If they haven't learned a trade and they have a felony on their record, how difficult is it going to be to find a place that someone will rent to them? Or they can even get a water bill or gas bill or electric bill in their name? So if you set them up to fail like that, what are the chances of them re-offending and going right back into the system? Pretty good," explained Siegelman.
Currently, eight of the twelve state prisons run the KCI program, which includes dozens of different operations for inmates to learn something new. "It could be, for a lot of inmates, the first job they've ever had," said Siegelman. "It makes them feel much more human."