The Bicycle Men
Marion Prison program two years later. Two years ago, Dave Schepers and I started training twelve inmates at a Federal Penitentiary to repair bicycles. Over the course of the last two years, these inmates have refurbished 2025 bicycles to date.
The prisoners have worked diligently to restore the used bikes to a condition that a child would be happy to see. They not only repair the bike, but they put in extra effort into cleaning all the bike parts by polishing the chrome, and generally restoring the bike to as close to “new” as possible. The inmates work in a large room filled with televisions and exercise equipment, surrounded by 20-30 inmates sitting in chairs watching the world go by on TV. The men who work on these bikes have chosen to do something productive rather than working out and watching TV.
What started two years ago as an experiment to increase the number of bikes we could build for the kids at Bicycle Works and other non-profits has evolved into more than we imagined. Early in 2012, during a trip to the prison, one of the inmates pulled us aside. He wanted to let us know that over the course of the eight years he was at the penitentiary, he never felt like he was given a chance to repay society for the crimes he committed. He thanked us for this opportunity and let us know that he was being released. Every time one of the inmates is released from the prison, we have received a similar thank you. Because of the inmates and their dedicated work, our organization has gone from giving away two or three hundred bikes per year to kids, to providing over 1200 bikes per year to a much broader community. Our organization has grown from working with a few non-profits in St. Louis, to helping numerous non-profits across Missouri and Illinois.
Here are the portraits of the “Bicycle Men.” Patrick Van Der Tuin