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A captive audience

New Hampshire furniture artisan Brian Reid of Rockland, Maine, recently launched a new fine-woodworking program at the state prison in Warren, Maine.

The prisoners take their first class.

The program currently includes 10 students and teaches all aspects of fine woodworking, such as the intricate details of hand-cut dovetails, mortise-and-tenon joinery, and sanding and finishing techniques. The students meet every Sunday and are learning to build cabinets, tables and chairs. Reid modeled the curriculum on the program he teaches at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockport, where he’s been a longtime instructor.

“I wanted to create a self-sustaining program wherein the current prisoner students would learn skills that they could then pass on to the next group of prisoner students,” Reid says.

Reid says his desire to create the program grew after hearing from his New Hampshire Furniture Masters Association colleagues about the rewards of teaching in the New Hampshire prison system through a program sponsored by the New Hampshire Institute of Furniture Making.

After several meetings with Robert Walden, director of Maine Correctional Industries, and Ken Lindsey, manager of Warren Prison Industries, Reid’s program was approved by Joseph Ponte, commissioner of the Maine Department of Corrections. The Maine Prison program started in August 2012. Lie-Nielsen Toolworks donated the majority of the hand tools that the program needed to begin instruction and many fine-furniture makers donated tools, including a high-quality German table saw.

Instructors Dylan Fuller (left) and Brian Reid.

Current instructors in the program, in addition to Reid, include Dylan Fuller of Thomaston, Maine, Howard Hatch of Augusta, Maine, and Jeremy S. Gallant of Portsmouth, N.H. To date, the students have made a small bench, a small mirror (at left) and a Shaker-style table. Tyra Hanson, owner of The Gallery at Somes Sound in Somesville, is a program sponsor and has begun selling the students’ work in her gallery. The prisoners’ work will also be displayed in a special section at the Maine Prison Store in Thomaston. Proceeds from the sale will be used to buy additional tools and materials.

Currently, Reid is raising funds to pay instructors who donate eight-plus hours per month of teaching time.

Contact: Brian Reid, 40 Warren St., Rockland, ME 04841. Tel: 207-319-3621.

— Jennifer Hicks

This article originally appeared in the August 2013 issue.

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