Updated 09/10/2012 06:48 AM
Inmates repair vandalized holiday light displays
They spent every waking minute behind bars until a program allowed them to get out and give. Not only are these inmates getting into the spirit, but they'll help bring holiday cheer to many in the region. Innae Park has the story.
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ALBANY, N.Y. -- Brian Nichols is an inmate at the Albany County Jail, but he wasn’t behind bars when we caught up with him. Instead, he is taking apart frames, sanding them down, and painting, all through the county’s Inmate Workforce Program.
“You find it rewarding,” Nichols said. “I do, at least, personally.”
“It's about our inmates being able to get out, do something productive with their lives, and also go back with the feeling that 'Hey, I accomplished something, maybe when I get out of here, I can get a job, I can do something,’” said county Sheriff Craig Apple.
Sheriff Apple says inmates have logged about 7,000 hours assisting non-profits, working on government projects, and one particular effort to brighten people's lives.
Executive Director of the Albany Police Athletic League Lenny Ricchiuti said, “The lines were cut, the wires were cut in so many spots, that there was a tremendous amount of amperage leakage from the lines.”
Ricchiuti is referencing the thousands of dollars in damage done to the Hannaford Capital Holiday Lights display in Washington Park last year, right before Christmas. He believed there was about $35,000 to $40,000 in damages to the organization that raises the funds to help local children. However, thanks to the help of these inmates, he estimates they'll save about $15,000 in repairs.
“We're very fortunate, we have some terrific help,” Ricchiuti said. “A couple of them have a background in electric, in wiring.”
And sometimes, the service comes full circle.
“Some of these people are going back to these non-for-profits and working full-time for them after they get out of jail,” said Apple.
Nichols said, “It'll be kinda nice, at some point in the near future, to go through the park and say, 'I had my hands in it.'”
Albany PAL is also trying to take advantage of this opportunity to go green. The repaired displays will use LED lights, an initiative that began just last year.