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Offenders At Putnamville Prison Repair Broken Bicycles

An Indianapolis bicycle group teams up with Putnamville Correctional Facility to refurbish used bicycles and donate them to underprivileged children.

  • Bikes line a warehouse at the Putnamville Correctional Facility.

    Image 1 of 2

    Photo: James Vavrek

    Bikes line a warehouse at the Putnamville Correctional Facility.

  • Inmate Charles Holmes fixes a bicycle at the Putnamville Correctional Facility.

    Image 2 of 2

    Photo: James Vavrek

    Inmate Charles Holmes fixes a bicycle at the Putnamville Correctional Facility.

An Indiana prison is engaging offenders by offering a program that trains them to repair bicycles. The Putnamville Correctional Facility gathers used and unwanted bikes from across the state. Prisoners repair the bikes, then they’re sent back to charity groups.

Charles Holmes has been here for several years and says tinkering with bikes helps him pass the time.

“Since I was a kid I liked to take things apart and put them back together but as I got towards my adults years, I kind of slacked off, done it as a past time, and never really was into it as much,” Holmes says. “But actually doing this has brought me back, brought the feeling back.”

Bicycle Garage Indy owns multiple bike shops throughout the city. While you can shop for new bicycles at these stores, or fix up your own bike, they also serve as a drop off point for unwanted bicycles.

“We take in bikes year-round at all three of our Bicycle Garage Indy stores,” says Connie Szabo Schmucker, the advocacy director for Bicycle Garage Indy.

Several times throughout the year the group holds collection events around the metro area. Schmucker says it’s a way to promote the program and gather more abandoned bicycles.

  • Bicycle Garage Indy collects the broken bicycles that eventually get repaired at the Putnamville Correctional Facility.

    Image 1 of 2

    Photo: James Vavrek

    Bicycle Garage Indy collects the broken bicycles that eventually get repaired at the Putnamville Correctional Facility.

  • Bicycle Garage Indy collects the broken bicycles that eventually get repaired at the Putnamville Correctional Facility.

    Image 2 of 2

    Photo: James Vavrek

    Bicycle Garage Indy collects the broken bicycles that eventually get repaired at the Putnamville Correctional Facility.

After they’re donated, the bikes are loaded into a truck and Bicycle Garage employees take them to a warehouse to assess the damage. The majority are sent to Putnamville for repairs.

“They take them there, people can donate their bikes all there. Then after they go through them a little bit, then they send them down to us,” says Brady Moss, the bike program coordinator at Putnamville. “We make sure everything’s good, we repair them if they need repaired, check them over, then we send them out to groups and charities.”

Some of the repairs are minor and can be completed in a few hours; others are more complicated and can take awhile to fix.

Last year, inmates repaired about 700 bicycles. That’s more than double the previous year when they fixed 300. The goal is really ambitious this year – 1,000 bikes.

The work is meaningful for the prisoners. After the bikes leave here they’re donated to underprivileged children.

“The feeling of knowing that some child is happy somewhere, to go get this bike, to say ‘I have my own,’ and they can show off to their friends, ‘this is mine,’ and you know, I feel good knowing that somewhere some child is doing that and I have a part in that,” Holmes says.

In the ten years since these programs started, nearly 4,000 bicycles have been distributed.

Moss says compassion fuels their efforts.

“It may not seem like it, but if you read the letters and you see the faces that we take these bikes to and all that, there’s a lot of compassion involved in that.”

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