Nevada's 'Big House' Products is Booming Industry

Several products you've probably seen or maybe even used are made right here in Nevada by prison inmates. Eyewitness News takes you inside this booming industry to see some of the things they've made.

It's a prison on the outside, but it's also a factory on the inside. Inmates remove smudges from freshly forged stained glass and restore classic cars. 

Deputy Director Howard Skolnik, with Nevada Prison Industries, supervises 900 employees, making prisons one of the largest industries in the state.

Skolnik explained, "I suspect that most people don't know that anything they are using is made by inmates. More and more of it is. If you have been in many of our major properties you have seen a stained glass window, you have seen something that is manufactured in one of our institutions."

They built all the original stained glass in the Excalibur; make casino mattresses, chairs for attorneys, and exclusive lines of clothing for airport retailers. They make award plaques, reupholster cars and rebuild water trucks for a local water company. And for this they are paid better here than any other state says Skolnik.

"We have inmates that have left here with 30-40 thousand (dollars) in the bank, a set of tools, good job and bought a house," Skolnik continued.

That's the goal.

"We won't see them again and someone wont be the victim of a crime because that person is going to work, going home opening up the paper and, if anything, having a beer. Substantially different than their previous behavior," Skolnik commented.

Some 80-percent of prisoners in work programs never come back. All of the prison industries are partnerships between the prisons and private companies.

For the work inmates are doing now, the state is planning a major expansion right across the street. Next week Skolnik is holding meetings to plan a 22-acre 700,000-square foot industrial park.

Skolnik said, "If this wasn't being done here it would be done in Mexico, Brazil or Poland, which is where these things were being done, not in the United States."

With 12,000 inmates statewide, there is plenty of cheap labor to go around. But Skolnik says the shadow always hangs over their success because first and foremost, it comes from a prison.

The prison is taking orders for auto and motorcycle restorations and they're always looking for new businesses to form new partnerships.

You can negotiate a deal by calling 877-NV-CHOPS, or by visiting BigHouse Choppers online to see some of the products they produce.

Send feedback to Reporter Ky Plaskon at kplaskon@klastv.com


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