Students living in housing provided by Iowa State use their furniture to sit, study, eat and sleep every day, but they're probably unaware it was built, moved and even installed by Iowa prisoners.

Since 1999, Iowa State has partnered with Iowa Prison Industries and the Iowa Department of Corrections to provide furniture, cleaning products and labor services needed at the university.

Director of Residence Pete Englin said all three regent institutions buy furniture from IPI. The inmates are working as participants in IPI's reentry program. 

"I think it actually started with us in Maple [in 1999] when they were looking at furniture styles," Englin said. "We’re encouraged to partner with other state agencies, and the fact we can help support one state agency and partner that way, encouraged us to look at ways they could help us."

IPI Director Dan Clark said all inmates allowed to work on campus have been screened for original offenses. Prisoners convicted of violent crimes or sexual offenses are not allowed to participate, he said.

"These are all minimum security inmates that are allowed to work outside the prison walls," Clark said. "They work at Iowa State, they work at the governor’s mansion, they work at our office here in Des Moines, they do all kinds of different jobs."

Englin said an attractive part of the collaboration was that delivery and installation is part of the original purchasing price. In 2014, Iowa State paid $1,119,704 for 536 sets of furniture in Willow Hall. In 2015, $1,119,168 was spent for 536 sets in Larch Hall and $791,720 for 395 sets in off-campus housing.

Inmates are never allowed to work in occupied buildings and safety is always the department's first priority, Englin said.

Inmates also visit campus for non-installation purposes. When Iowa State hosts large events in the summer, IPI can send crews for other tasks.

"We have lofted furniture but during the summer we also host Iowa Special Olympics," Englin said. "Lofted furniture does not work. So after the students are out and the buildings are unoccupied, they’ll come in and help us move all those beds onto the floor.

"We have a long standing relationship with [IPI] and a lot of trust has been developed. They’re heavily supervised and the folks who get to come to campus earn the right. It’s a privilege to be able to get out and go do this."

Clark echoed Englin and said the reentry program helps the 500-700 inmates at eight Iowa correctional facilities integrate back into society after their release. According to IPI's 2014 Annual Report, recitivism rates in Iowa have dropped from 36.5 percent in 2009 to 29.7 percent in 2014.

"Honestly, we have very few problems," Clark said. "These are well behaved offenders that have shown they can handle this level of supervision. It’s a good program for them, they’re about to be released. They’re at their last step of incarceration."

Because the program is government sponsored, any profit made must be redistributed into the system, Clark said.

"If we have more income than expenses in a given year, we’re allowed to roll that over, but in the end it just gets invested in new programs, new equipment and new trucks," he said.

According to the 2014 report, IPI made $28.8 million in sales and logged more than 900,000 training hours for inmates. That allowed IPI’s operation to return $1.7 million to the DOC institutions and Iowa’s General Fund.

DOR Purchasing Coordinator Roger Sebring said most prisoners allowed to work on campus are from correctional facilities in Rockwell City and Newton.

Sebring said the quality and durability of the product is what set IPI apart from competitors.

"When new furniture was purchased for Maple, we took the furniture from Maple out to the towers and it’s still there," Sebring said. 

He also said the furniture for the "Buchanan Two" residence hall will also be purchased from IPI.

"When you’re trying to furnish for 12,000 students, this has actually worked out very well," Englin said.

By Matthew Rezab,

(10) comments

Ezra Steinbach

Many students at the Iowa University take their school, teachers, and facilities for granted and don't spare a minute to think about how it all came to be. The cafeteria and dorm rooms at IU are particularly nice, with beautiful heritage furniture, large halls and comfortable chairs, and if you think about it it's quite impressive that they were all moved and assembled by inmates.

Hannah Reiley

This is a great article that provides quality and useful information! The Iowa University provides quality housing for its students. They have some great rooms, decorated in a fancy style with elegant furniture and fused glass bowls.

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It is very hard to find the proper way to decorate your room when you are a student, especially if you are not living alone. Everyone wants to transform their place in a spot that will remind them of home but in the same time, having space to express yourself is very needed. There are many hack that you can use in order to combine these two wishes and using hooker furniture nj can be one of them.

Amanda Baird

If you're a freshman and you've just moved into your dorm room, you're probably thinking about Outdoor furniture London Ontario and other great places to find furniture. Still, the best place to get inexpensive furniture for your dorm room is online. Check out garage sales, Craigslist, or local thrift stores to find dressers, chairs and desks. You can easily find pieces of furniture for under $20 at these locations. Then pull out the paint and give each piece a fresh coat to personalize it and to fit the decorating scheme.

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Everybody’s functional requirement out of a furniture product could be different. You can take a look at the donny osmond home if you want to be inspired. Custom Furniture is usually made to order and fits perfectly at your home, rather than a mass produced model. Also, you could customize every aspect of your furniture: the size that you wanted it to be, the color that suits your home, that fabric that feels and works better with pets and kids. In short, One size does not fit all!

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While mass produced furniture companies such as Ikea are incredibly convenient, chances are you will end up with the same sofa, bookshelf and coffee table as half of Britain. Instead of following the masses, why not choose to commission custom made furniture that is as unique as you are? Check out the furniture stores Austin TX if you want to understand this better. There are a range of benefits that make bespoke pieces far better than their mass produced counterparts.

Charlie Dejei

The best way to make a room feel larger is to buy smaller scale furniture. Notice in the photo below that the black sofa is really a loveseat. The scale and proportions of the sofa and the dainty armchairs create more circulation area. Large sofas, armchairs and tables will make a small room feel crowded, whereas properly scaled furniture won't. Check out the furniture layout nj for more details. Also, leggy furniture works much better in a small space than furniture that sits on the ground. Notice that every piece of furniture in the room below sits on high legs. Also, lucite and acrylic furnishings (like the coffee table below) are perfect for smaller spaces because they don't take up any visual space.

Amanda Baird

Sleek hardwood risers will give you under-bed storage space for cheap while avoiding the dreaded dorm room look. A slightly pricier, but still affordable option involves lofting your entire bed up high to make room for a desk from natural furniture Portland, closet or cozy hangout space underneath. When it comes to magnifying small spaces, this is the oldest trick in the book: use a big statement mirror.

Dean Bruce

Plants and flowers remind us of life because we are trying to do everything possible in order to keep them alive as much as we can. Flowers are destined to stay in trees or in the ground and having them in a glass is something that it isn't natural. If you want to make sure that your flowers don't die, look at Aiken golf club for inspiration. They have a very talented gardener that takes care of numerous species of flowers.

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