Who is A.C.I.? A.C.I. is a self-supporting division of the Arkansas Department of Correction. Each purchase you make from A.C.I. ensures that the will be able to further train inmates assigned to them. Statistics show that if A.C.I. teaches an inmate a marketable job skill that can be used upon release; he or she is less likely to return to prison. This means that through the purchase of their goods and services, you are actually helping to lower the number of persons in prison. Any profits derived from the sale of their products and services go to enlarging the present programs and creating new programs to train and educate more inmates.
What can A.C.I do? Presently, they maintain 8 different industrial divisions employing around 40 free-world employees and around 600 inmates. Their divisions include printing, vinyl bindery, metal fabrication, furniture manufacturing/refurbishing, garment, toilet paper, janitorial supplies, and coffee and tea. Each program is run independently by the program specific manager and assisting staff.
Graphic Arts Division became the very first Industry Program, in 1972, at the Cummings Unit. They began small by overprinting “punched” data cards in only black ink. Graphic Arts moved to its current location at Wrightsville in 1985. They are now a full service printer and engraver, producing printing products from conventional offset printing to the current digital market. They produce beautiful full color pictures and graphics on everything from business cards, brochures, magazines, booklets, posters, pocket folders and more. They also have an engraving department for wall signs, name badges, and custom plaques and trophies.
In 1977, the ground behind the Tucker Unit was broken, and the construction of the now-standing building known as the Bus Factory began. The first inmates assigned to this program mostly had prior experience in mechanical, painting and upholstery refurbishing. At the time of it’s opening, the Bus Factory had a state-of-the-art Bink’s Spray Paint Booth and a mechanics shop. As time passed, they did indeed expand. In the late 80s, A.C.I. added another work area and began building and installing recreational safety pads for school gymnasiums and equipment. In 1990, the Bus Factory trustees completely rebuilt and remodeled Parnell Hall auditorium at the Little Rock School for the Deaf, which was renowned for the fact that the old stage was once stood upon by Hellen Keller. For the sentimental, the old stage is still there-it is just underneath the new one.
In 1993, when the Tucker Unit became the Women’s Unit for five years, the Bus Factory work crew had to be reduced to approximately 50 inmates. A night shift of female industry workers were assigned to the chairs section. Throughout the mid-90s, the program expanded it’s detailed department by bringing in computers that generated high-tech graphics and thus began the graphic arts department within the program. In 2002, the Bust Factory expanded again by building a 3,100 square foot powder painting building that sits next to the main building. Even though the main building was built by free-world contractors, by the year 2000 the Bus Factory had several inmates with construction backgrounds, and they built the powder paint building from the ground up. In 2012, the Bus Factory expanded again by adding a 4,000 square foot welding shop. The original welding shop was approximately half this size and was contained within the main building of the program. It now maintains over 20 welding machines at 11 different workstations, along with 4 plasma cutting machines, two state of the art plasma cutting tables, shears, hydraulic brakes, drill presses, tubing benders, and is stocked with over 1,300 hand tools. The welding shop maintains an average of 30 inmates assigned. At any given time, the Bus Factory Division will be running 9 different departments inside this program. These include painting, welding or metal fabrication, reupholster, vehicle restoration, wall padding and printing.
A.C.I. administration, working together with Vocational Training, has now brought into the Bus Factory the ability for a worker to obtain Vocational Training hours and receive a valuable certificate that he can take with him upon parole which can then be used to obtain a job prior to release. On November 21, 2016 Arkansas Correctional Industries opened their first evidence based reentry program, a 12 week course offered after work hours at the Tucker Unit. The Tucker Bus Factory now has over 100 workers and trainees assigned which stands at approximately one tenth the Tucker Unit population.
Right around the time Bus Factory was making its debut; the Garment Division was also starting up in 1977. Garment is responsible for making all Arkansas Department of Correction’s inmate clothing, t-shirts, hats, mattresses, and linens. However, the Garment division is not limited to just inmate clothing. They make golf shirts, polo’s, bags, and flags. They also have a variety of sewing machines from single needles to sergers and two embroidery machines in which they can offer custom embroidery on polo type shirts.
The Furniture Division was started in the early 80s on the Wrightsville Compound. It is said that the first desk was made of a tree cut down on the unit grounds. The program had very few and very old equipment to work with when it began, but they made the best with that they had. The Furniture Program started out in the saw shop. The warehouse was located in the main building that now has the sanding/staining are and the final assembly and shipping department. They used two buildings for all production until the business expanded. They then added a new building and moved the assembly and lamination areas to the new building. During the growth of the program, they have been able to add up to date equipment that both allows the program to do much more than in the past and in a much safer way. Over the years the program has added product lines such as dorm furniture and panel systems. However, the mainstay has been the uncompromising and unmatched quality of office furniture and school product line. The Furniture Division can customize any piece you want to fit any space you have. They use the highest quality wood and hardware to make the entire line.
The Vinyl Division was established in the early 80s, and supplies inmates with a job skill that can be used upon release. Products made from Vinyl Bindery include binder, conference folders, pocket memo pads, portfolios, mouse pads, bumper stickers, license plates, and street signs. There are many departments with Vinyl Bindery, but all work together to ensure the orders are met and adhered to. The departments include; administrative, dark room, heat seal, screen print room, stock room, wash out, tool room, shipping and receiving, and janitorial. Vinyl Products generally has a workforce of 20-28 workers. These men do remarkable work, and you may be able to spot their work in your neighborhood. The hope of Vinyl Bindery is to encourage their inmates to leave a good mark on society.
In 2012 Toilet Paper Division began at the Hawkins Unit. There are 8-10 inmates working in the toilet paper program. They package and distribute coreless toilet paper to all of ADC, jails, and county sheriff’s offices.
Coffee and tea also began in 2012, and is packaged and delivered out of Newport. The coffee and tea grinds are purchased from West Rock Coffee and packaged by around 15 inmates. An inmate is also able to take a Vo-Tech as well as receive a fork lift certification in both of these programs.
EARU Division was established in 2014 to assist Tucker Bus Factory with the increase in metal fabrication work. The metal is cut to size at Tucker then transported to EARU to be assembled then transported back to Tucker to be painted and then shipped to the customers. They have 5 welding machines and 1 plasma cutter; also they have a drill press, bench grinder and several hand grinders. They currently have 8 inmates assigned to this industry, one supervisor, and one security officer.
Why does A.C.I do what they do? The most prestigious position in Arkansas Correctional Industries is that of a trustee. The goal is to help them achieve a sense of accomplishment and a marketable job skill that will allow them to be successful upon release. All funds generated from the revenue stream go back to the programs for upkeep and expansion. A.C.I. prides itself on making quality products at a reduced rate, but more importantly on training a productive member of society.