ELOY — According to a Census Bureau survey, the average construction time for a custom home ranges between 10 and 16 months.
For the inmates at the CoreCivic Saguaro Correctional Center, their latest home building project took nearly nine months.
The two-story home with custom-made front porch is sure to be a hit with the many kids who will get to play with the dollhouse at Against Abuse's La Paloma Center.
“Wow,” Pat Griffen, executive director of Against Abuse, said when she saw the elaborate dollhouse. “Don’t you just want to move in? It definitely exceeds everything that I thought.”
The perfectly scaled dollhouse was built in the construction program at the prison and was designed and detailed exactly as a human house would be.
“Our goal is to get these guys to see how a house is built from the ground level all the way to the top,” said Willis Mace, instructor of the program. “We don’t have enough room to build an actual building, so we scale it down a little bit. It has every header, every trimmer, every king stud, everything you’d put in a regular house is in this home here. Everything that we do here is done the exact same way as we would do out there. When they leave here after they build this, they know every step that they need to build a complete home.”
In the course, each inmate has to draw a scale blueprint of a house and once they go through each plan to make sure everything is measured correctly, the inmate whose blueprint is most closely drawn to scale and put the most effort into it then has the opportunity to build his dream home.
Several inmates worked on the dollhouse, which included toilets, a washer and dryer, bookcases and a fireplace.
“We started out with 25 guys and when we get to building it, we’re at about 15,” Mace said. “Throughout the course it can go down to about five or 10 depending on the behavior of the inmates. It’s a total privilege for the guys to be able to do this. It’s something that if you’re doing bad, you’re not going to be able to do it.”
Along with good behavior, another prerequisite is that inmates must have a high school diploma or GED to get into the vocational program.
Deb Prosoki, principal of the program at the correctional center, said that the classes are certified by the National Center for Construction Education and Research.
“Not only do they get the skills, they get the certificates that say I mastered this skill and so they have that to take out and become employable,” Prosoki said. “They come in and they start seeing what’s going on. We have a big long hallway in our building and on the right side is the academic program and on the left side are the vocational programs. This particular class is towards the front, so they’re always looking in there, seeing what they’re doing and they’re like I want to do that. What do I have to do?”
This is the seventh dollhouse the program has produced since it began in 2007. Inmates have also worked on special projects such as building a sleigh, wooden giraffes and cornhole games.
Mace said that this is the first house to be built with so much detail as far as appliances go. He added that somewhere down the road, the program might add electricity and plumbing.
“We want to know if they know how to schedule these things because the plumbers and electricians aren’t going to come on their own,” Mace said. “They have to know how to set those things up, so if they ever decide they want to run with this, they know what to do to be successful.”
The correctional facility decided to donate the dollhouse to the kids who spend time at the La Paloma Center, which gives the inmates a sense of pride to be able to say that they built something and it went to a good cause.
“This is an opportunity for the children in our program to experience something that they may not have ever,” Griffen said. “It also gives them an opportunity to learn about responsibility and appreciation for donations and life. This may sound cliché, but there’s a lot of thoughtfulness that goes into providing something like this to a program like ours. Even though where it came from may not be the best in the terms of giving back, they are going to provide a whole lot of happiness and joy to a lot of children that wouldn’t be able to experience anything like this. It’s kind of neat.”