LOS LUNAS, N.M. (KRQE) – A program at a New Mexico prison is improving the experience for Rail Runner riders, all while giving inmates skills they can use in life after prison. “It brightens my day up, it makes me feel good,” says an inmate who wanted to remain anonymous. 

Inmates at one New Mexico prison are making Rail Runner rides more comfortable. At the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility in Los Lunas, prisoners are refurbishing seats for the Rail Runner. This collaboration began in 2021 when the Rail Runner reached out to the facility. The program has between six and eight inmates at a time, who make about 200 seats per contract. 

“It’ll take about 3 months, so they’ll remove the seats for us, we’ll go drive down there, we’ll pick them up and then bring them here and then refurbish them here,” said Jeremy Richards, Facility Manager for Central New Mexico Correctional Facility. 

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Since the program began, inmates have refurbished more than 3,000 seats for the Rail Runner. As the old seats come in, the team replaces the old cloth upholstery with vinyl. One inmate, who did not want to show his face, said it’s great to work on something that contributes to society. “We’re not just a bunch of rock crushers, we actually do things, and we’re able to put it out there and do something constructive for somebody,” says the anonymous inmate. 

He’s been a part of the seat refurbishing program for two years. He said some days, they find surprises. “It’s interesting to see, we found pennies in them, we found all kinds of stuff in them. Hair curlers, you know…things you don’t want to talk about,” said the anonymous inmate. 

However, he said it’s also taught him a lot about patience and teamwork, and he hopes to continue doing this work while he’s there. “We look forward to doing more of them, I mean bring it on we’ll do it,” said the anonymous inmate. 

The Central New Mexico Correctional Facility said they’re looking to partner with other businesses needing upholstery work. They encourage anyone interested in collaborating to reach out.