A student in Georgia Northwestern Technical College’s drafting technology program watched as workers installed a reception desk of his own design in the governor’s office at the Georgia State Capitol Building.
William Rutledge, a former prison inmate, has been working on the desk since December. The reception desk is the second of his custom wood furniture designs placed in the office, accompanying the Georgia State Patrol desk that was installed earlier this year.
“Not many people have this opportunity,” Rutledge said. “I have gone from having a state prison ID number to a state employee ID.”
Rutledge said the story of how he ended up designing furniture to go into government buildings started during his 17-year prison sentence. It was while he was incarcerated that he began teaching himself AutoCAD®, a computer-based software program that aids in drafting and designing. It was during this time of self-teaching that Rutledge found GCI.
Georgia Correctional Industries, where many inmates work while incarcerated, provides offenders the hard and soft skills needed to successfully reenter society. It was at GCI’s Metal Plant, at Walker State Prison, where Rutledge felt like he was regaining his identity.
“They gave me purpose and structure when I was in prison,” he said. “Without it you are lost and just hanging out in prison.”
While he was incarcerated, the Flintstone resident worked with GCI’s wood, metal and office cubicle plants where he designed benches for state parks, cubicle work areas for state office buildings as well as a custom conference table for the Nathan Deal Judicial Center.
Now the 56-year-old says he is starting a new journey in education at GNTC where he is improving his skills with AutoCAD as well as other programs. His goal is to graduate with an associate degree and continue his work as an employee of GCI.
“Prison was a big part of my story,” he said. “When you turn around and look at the path you have been down you think ‘Wow, look how far I’ve come.’ When I decided to make the right choices it made a difference.”
GCI began manufacturing offender garments and bedding, institutional and office furniture and cleaning chemicals in 1960. Over the years, they expanded service lines to include embroidery, screen printing, reupholstery, engraving, optical and framing services.