In about a week, the eyes of state lawmakers and invited guests at the Medina Performing Arts Center will be focused on Gov. John Kasich as he offers his fourth State of the State address.
For the entire evening, those same eyes will be resting on the work of Kristin Jorris and Tomeka Lewis and a handful of other prison inmates who spent recent weeks planning and stitching together the oversized Ohio flag that will serve as a backdrop for the governor’s annual joint address to the Legislature.
For the third consecutive year, inmates at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville, through the Ohio Department of Corrections’ Ohio Penal Industries program, have sewed massive lengths of fabric into an auditorium curtain adorned with the larger-than-life banner.
In the process, the inmates are learning a trade and positioning themselves for jobs once their incarceration has ended.
“A lot of them, before they came here, don’t understand that it’s important in your life that you give something to the community, but you also earn a living,” said Cindy Salzgaber, industry manager in correctional industries at the prison. “So a lot of them that haven’t had jobs understand that it’s important to come to work everyday, to get along with the people that you work with and also how to take orders from your bosses, respect — all of the things that we grew up knowing how to do, we try to teach here.”
There are more than 1,400 inmates across the state involved in industry activities, working on farms or making office furniture and janitorial supplies and other products that are then used in prisons or sold to other government agencies, schools and nonprofit groups, said JoEllen Smith, state prisons spokeswoman.
Read more about the program and the flag project in Sunday's Vindicator or on Vindy.com.