Inmates help with Rail Runner seat revamp

Inmates help with Rail Runner seat revamp

On the Rail Runner, some of the seats needed a revamp so they called on inmates to help with the job.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — If you’ve been on the New Mexico Rail Runner, you know some of the seats haven’t been in the best condition but they’ve recently done renovations.

The Rail Runner even had some help from inmates at the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility in Los Lunas. They learned how to sew, replenish and give the seats a new life.

“We’ll get with the Rail Runner Express when their seats are really matted and kind of that’s what kind of started this whole process. They were really dirty, really. They needed new seat covers,” said Jeremy Richards, the facility manager at the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility.

Since 2021, inmates have refurbished more than 3,000 seats. They do that by taking off the old cloth and replacing it with vinyl.

“We’ll pick up a load of seats anywhere from 150 seats to 300 seats, and bring them down here. It’ll take us usually a couple of months to redo them,” Richards said.

After six months, inmate Frank Maestas says he’s getting the hang of it.

“To put it together? Probably 20 minutes to put together a whole seat from beginning to end,” Maestas said. “Through the process, I’ve learned a little few techniques to get them done efficiently.”

Maestas says this project has not only given him skills but also a confidence boost.

“It’s helped me build up confidence on, you know, having trades or skills to do something,” Maestas said.

Richards says they just want inmates to have a will to learn.

“If they’re just willing to learn, willing to come to work, that’s all we want. Then we’ll bring them out here and we’ll teach them,” Richards said.

Knowing how to sew, recovering and reconditioning are just a plus.

“That’s one thing for sure is being able to talk to them. What working every day does is build a relationship. That’s what a relationship is about, talking to one another,” Maestas said.

“It’s been a rewarding experience. I get to see these guys and see the smiles on their faces every time they come out here,” Richards said.

This is just one of many programs they offer at the facility. As of right now, Richards says they only have a couple hundred seats left to go.