The exterior of the Maine State Prison Showroom in Thomaston, pictured in 2015. Credit: BDN File Photo

A CBS “Sunday Morning” feature on the Maine State Prison Showroom in Thomaston on its Dec. 19 broadcast highlighted a longstanding education program that prison officials say has reduced recidivism dramatically.

The segment by journalist Nancy Giles also featured the Maine Department of Corrections program that allows inmates to get their college degree while incarcerated.

Prisoners that go through the department’s education programs only have about a five percent recidivism rate, compared with a national rate of around 60 to 65 percent, according to Maine Department of Corrections commissioner Randall Liberty.

“If you spend $46,000 a year to house someone in a correctional facility, and they come back because they received no programming to address the core reasons why they arrived here, that’s stupid money,” Liberty said in the interview.

Much of the college program was funded by Doris Buffett, sister of billionaire Warren Buffet, who died last year at her home in Rockport. Charlie Jones, an inmate who works in the woodworking shop and is also a graduate of the college program, created an ornate table with legs carved in the shape of stacks of books, each named for a college course offered in the prison.

“There’s only so many opportunities you have in here to touch the world,” Jones said.

The Showroom, open to the public on Main Street in Thomaston, sells a wide variety of items handmade by prisoners at the Maine State Prison in Warren, most of which are produced out of the prison’s woodworking shop. They range in size and price from games, toys and birdhouses to furniture, kitchen items and model boats.

Items from the store are only available to purchase in person.

Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified Doris Buffett. It has been corrected.

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Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.