California Inmates Refurbish 1971 Toyota Forklift

Prison forklift

The 1971 Toyota forklift refurbished by prisoners at the California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo, California.

A group of inmates at a penitentiary in San Luis Obispo, California, recently rebuilt a 43-year-old forklift as part of their vocational training.

The 1971 Toyota 2FG15 forklift had recently been purchased for $4,500 by the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office from an agricultural warehouse, where it was used to move materials. But by the time it arrived at the sheriff’s department, the vehicle was in poor repair and in desperate need of a makeover.

That’s where Thomas Wilt, the prison’s vocational auto body instructor, entered the picture.

Part of Vocational Training Program

Wilt recruited three inmates who were participating in the facility’s Vocational Auto Body Shop program to help him convert the old, run-down forklift into a “work of art”. After investing more than 80 labor hours into the project, the forklift was practically as good as new.

Elvin Valenzuela, warden of the California Men’s Colony (CMC) at San Luis Obispo, presented the renovated forklift to SLO Sheriff Ian Parkinson. In making the presentation, Valenzuela said his goal was to “strengthen relationships and be of any assistance possible to local law enforcement neighbors,” according to the website Inside California Department of  Corrections News.

Will Be Used at Sheriff’s Work Farm

The forklift will be used for general movement of palletized materials and store the equipment at the sheriff’s department’s honor farm. It will be maintained by the county’s fleet services team, as well as by Madland Toyota-Lift, Inc., of Santa Maria, California.

The project offered the prisoners an opportunity to give something back to the community, according to the warden. He added that his facility looks forward to sponsoring more projects like this one and invites opportunities to help out law enforcement efforts within the community.

Prison Has Many Training Programs

The prison’s vocational auto body shop has a total of 27 inmates assigned to it.  In addition to auto body repair, the prison also offers vocational training in auto mechanics, machine shop, welding, office technology and building maintenance.

Academic services including adult basic education, General Equivalency Degree tutoring, and literacy programs also are offered.

Inmates at the prison also can work in a variety of different industries, including the manufacture of textile products including a glove factory, a jacket line, a t-shirt line, and silk screening. There is also a knitting mill, a laundry, a shoe factory, a specialty printing plant, a warehouse, and a production line that makes NOMEX firefighting equipment.

The CMC currently houses 4,208 convicted felons. It is designed to accomodate 3,838, making its current occupancy rate 109.7%, according to the monthly institution and camps population report issued September 30, 1014. While that’s well above capacity, it’s below the overall California Department of Corrections occupancy rating of 137.5% for men’s facilities and 156.2% for women’s prisons.






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