Touring the CCI truck run facility (L-R) are Travis Avery, District 1 mechanic; Kirk Slusher, District 1 deputy director; Luke Rohrs, Defiance County mechanic; Mark Yost, Wyandot County mechanic; Kevin Wildermuth, District 1 mechanic; Mike Webb, District
The Chillicothe Correctional Institute (CCI) in Pike County currently holds about 3,000 inmates. The medium security prison was originally built during World War I as a training camp, then became a federal prison before becoming a state prison in 1966. Like most prison facilities, it offers inmates the opportunity to use or learn job skills. But a special relationship between CCI and ODOT offers inmates a chance to learn a skill while providing the department with its main tool to carry out its signature service.
For more than 40 years, the inmates at CCI have built dump trucks for ODOT, producing about 160 vehicles per year. The arrangement between the two state agencies is the only one of its kind in the nation.
Roughly 200 inmates work in the truck facility, which includes welding, painting, machine and fabrication shops. Vehicle assembly is the final stop, where the hydraulics and plow hitches are mounted, electrical wiring is installed, and paint stripes are applied. The final inspection is completed here before the trucks leave.
A typical ODOT truck can be built within 90 days at a cost ranging from $150,000 to $210,000, depending on the features. There are a possible 163 combinations a truck can have, and a more complex design adds time. The inmates build truck beds, hoppers, brine systems and spreader gates as specified for each county. If needed, they relocate gear boxes and fabricate any other needed parts. The spreader gates used by ODOT were designed at the facility in the 1980s and are still built by hand.
“Anything we throw at them, they build,” said Doug Burke, transportation engineer of the equipment section of ODOT’s office of equipment management. “Almost no [two] trucks are the same; One county to another is going to be different.”
Like any other job, inmates must complete an application, interview, and be selected for a position in the truck run facility. Any inmate is eligible to apply, so long as they possess the skills or the aptitude to learn them. Inmates earn $.60 cents per hour. According to Burke, the inmates display very few behavioral issues.
“They don’t want to screw up,” he said, “for fear they’ll be removed from the vehicle facility. These are highly sought-after jobs.”
Dave Scheckelhoff, District 1 fleet manager, said that the vehicles produced by the inmates have served the department well.
“Very seldom do we have issues with quality,” said Scheckelhoff. “Things are clean when they arrive and are ready to go.”