Habitat Michigan's Prison Build Program

Right: Image shows an example of the cabinets produced through the Prison Build Program installed in a Habitat for Humanity Home.

Hardworking, focused, compassionate, proud. These are only a few words to describe the prisoners in Building Trades Programs at several Michigan Correctional Facilities. The Michigan Department of Corrections offers inmates the opportunity to build skills and prepare for reentry through the State Correctional Opportunities for Rehabilitation and Education (SCORE) Program.  This Program has an established curriculum for the student inmates which focuses on exercises, hands-on carpentry skills, and service learning projects that enhance the skills and opportunities needed to gain valuable work experience once released from incarceration. Students also have the opportunity to attend job fairs held inside the facility, work on their resume and portfolio, and even apply for jobs while still in prison.

Habitat for Humanity of Michigan is thrilled to partner with this amazing program.  Our partnership provides the prisoners with meaningful service to many Michigan communities and provides Habitat for Humanity partner families with affordable products built with high quality craftsmanship.  The prisoners construct many products for Habitat for Humanity homes, from wall panel packages to cabinets and countertops, to horticulture packages.  With the scrap material left over, they create small items and furniture that is sent with the affiliate order.

The materials used to construct the cabinets are made with low volatile organic compounds (VOC), to provide safer and healthier conditions for both the prisoners during the production of the product and the family once the product is installed in the homes.

Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility Prison Build Instructor, Andy Hengesbach, describes what he sees working first hand with the prisoners through this program. “I feel this Program is vital to getting these guys released, giving them a skill and making sure they do not end up back in the Correctional Facility again. Seeing these guys complete the course and knowing they have learned something and then having them help with cabinets and seeing the confidence in them gives me some pride. Most of these guys have never had any support in their lives, so when they build something and they are shown some praise, they just soak it in like a sponge."

I have had several opportunities to meet the gentleman that build these high quality, beautifully handcrafted products.  They have taken me through the entire cabinet making process and proclaimed how meaningful it has been to work on these products knowing they were making a difference in someone’s life by doing something they enjoy doing. Every conversation and story shared by the prisoners, instructors, homeowners, and affiliates have been impactful, memorable, and humbling.

Jessica Rick

Housing Programs Coordinator