WILDWOOD CREST – Beach boxes aren’t only helping the families who rent them, wanting to stash their belongings overnight in a secure place on the beach.
They are also helping inmates in New Jersey’s state prison system, who acquire employable skills, staying busy building the boxes while incarcerated.
The boxes, in Wildwood and Wildwood Crest, are manufactured by DEPTCOR, a self-funded program where state prisoners produce products, ranging from furniture to apparel to baked goods.
Municipalities and other eligible buyers can browse a catalog, or approach DEPTCOR with a custom project, and get a proposal, as was done with the beach boxes.
“From Bergen County to Cape May County and everything in between, DEPTCOR is available for any state or local public government agency to utilize, including municipalities, counties, school boards, commissions, and authorities,” wrote Liz Velez, communications director, New Jersey Department of Corrections (NJDOC), in an email to the Herald.
Inmates are manufacturing 46 beach boxes for use in Wildwood Crest this summer.
“The beach box program is instructional and includes participation from about 20 inmates nearing release. A large volume beach box order can take up to 60-90 days to complete. Each beach box takes approximately two weeks to produce, with production efficiency increasing as experience is gained,” Velez stated.
“You’re putting into something, and you’re saving the taxpayers money. It’s an ongoing investment. That’s what I like about it the most. You’re investing in the future of these people who need to learn skills and get viable jobs,” said Wildwood Crest Business Administrator Constance Mahon, pointing out that that the products are not only priced competitively, but the revenue generated helps subsidize the cost of incarcerating prisoners.
Mahon suggested the program and received the support of Borough Commission.
“You get that at a reasonable price, if not a better price than if you were to go out and get a private company to do this,” Mayor Don Cabrera said.
Eligible inmates can receive time off their sentences for achievements in education and workforce training, according to Velez. The voluntary program keeps them active on the inside and gives them a better chance when they get to the outside.
“It could take something as simple as this to find your mission in life. To say, ‘Hey, this is something I enjoy doing,’” said Cabrera. “There’s plenty of people looking for people with skills. I think if there’s something that’s a dying breed in our country now is people who work with their hands. I’m all for it. I think we need people to continue to work with their hands.”
Velez said the program has a high retention rate, speaking to its success. Cabrera and Mahon praised the quality of the products coming out of the program.
“They educate, they train, and they provide marketable skills. You really can’t ask for more,” said Mahon.
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