A flurry of preparations in a cavernous warehouse on N.M. 14 just south of Santa Fe resemble those for any other fine arts and craftsmanship exposition.
There’s the scent of fresh paint and sawdust from workers repairing sections of walls where goods will be displayed. Another crew unpacks boxes of painstakingly fashioned goods: hand-carved wood figurines, intricately beaded rosaries, woven rugs, paper flowers arranged in paper vases, finely wrought metalwork, an array of freshly varnished furniture.
The difference here? The warehouse is on the property of the state penitentiary, and all the items for sale were created by inmates from 11 prisons.
Some of the artists themselves will be on hand from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday to meet with buyers from the public during the second Penitentiary of New Mexico Inmate Craftsmanship and Trades Fair, hosted by the state Corrections Department.
The first such event in October raised almost $7,000, with about 400 inmates participating, the department staff said. Anna Martinez, acting director of the department’s corrections industries, has been watching goods arrive from all corners of the state, and she says she expects this second expo to be even bigger.
“Part of the picture is that we have an exciting program for inmates, but part of the bigger picture is that they’re giving back to their communities, and they’re taking ownership for their actions,” she said.