Prisoners taught how to recycle trashed bicycles into wheelchairs

Prisoners at Palen Creek Correctional Centre (PCCC) are helping people in developing countries with mobility issues by transforming unwanted bicycles into wheelchairs.

Palen Creek Acting Deputy General Manager Dave Gordon said some of his officers learned of the Wheelchair Aid Project being run by the Rotary Club of Surfers Sunrise and decided to become involved.

“After learning how to recycle the bicycles into wheelchairs, the officers have been training up the prisoners as part of a community service program, which has since produced 2116 wheelchairs,” Mr Gordon said.

The Surfers Sunrise Rotary club started this project 22 years ago. Since then, almost 9000 of these mobility aids have been delivered to people in need in East Timor, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Samoa and Africa.

PCCC sources the unwanted bicycles from refuse transfer centres, with the permission of local authorities.

Mr Gordon said community service programs such as the bicycle recycling program played a vital role in improving the safety and security of centres.

“They provide prisoners with meaningful employment as a part of structured day,” Mr Gordon said.

“It provides a high level of theory and practical training for the prisoners, providing vocational skills which help them reintegrate into the community on release and improve their chances of avoiding reoffending when they are released from prison.

“On this project, the prisoners are developing a range of skills, including welding, spray-painting, air brushing and bicycle repair,” Mr Gordon said.

“It also gives the prisoners a huge sense of satisfaction as they know they are helping to give the gift of mobility to people in need.”

International research suggests that when prisoners are released into the community and have stable accommodation, social support and employment opportunities, they have the best chance of not reoffending, which makes the community safer for everyone.

Surfers Sunrise Rotary Club Director of Service Projects, Larry Murray said the work performed by the Palen Creek prisoners was of very high quality and much appreciated.

“The officers do a tremendous job in training and supervising the prisoners and the wheelchairs produced at Palen Creek are of a very high quality,” Mr Murray said.

“It’s gratifying to know that the prisoners get so much out of producing the wheelchairs and that they are helping transform the lives of people in great need.”

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