Inmates at Lansing prison repair hundreds of bicycles for free for kids in need

LANSING, Kan. -- Serving hard time can soften some incarcerated people.

Minimum security inmates at the Lansing Correctional Facility have an unusual hobby to fill some of their time: providing refurbished bicycles for less-fortunate children.

The basement of one minimum security building has been transformed into the prison's bike shop. Each year, inmates such as 29-year-old Brandon Pollett take in and repair kids' bicycles. The Lansing Correctional Facility bike program delivers them to kids in need in time for the holidays.

"A bike is really only as good as you want it to be," Pollett said.

Pollett, a native of Coffeyville, said he's trying to do right after causing a lot of harm. The 29-year old is serving a nine-year sentence for making and selling methamphetamines.

Pollett said he has 18 months to go on that sentence, and since he's trained as an auto mechanic, working on bicycles feels like his chance to make a difference. He said since his incarceration, he's finished his high school equivalency and entered a treatment program for his drug addiction.

Brandon Pollett works on a bike Aug. 13, 2018, at Lansing Correctional Facility.

"We completely tear a bike down and rebuild it in about a day per bike," Pollett said Monday. "I've seen the looks on kids faces when they get stuff. I understand. I can't imagine if they don't have anything and they get one of these."

Since 1999, the prison bike shop has turned out thousands of sets of wheels, and the closer they get to Christmas Day, the harder the inmates work.

Stephany Rogers, the prison's bike shop manager, said Lansing inmates produced more than 600 bikes last year, and there are requests pouring in for more. Rogers said inmates are learning job skills and giving less-fortunate kids, as well as others, a happy smile.

"We've had guys down here who don't know how to work on a bike," Rogers said. "I've gotten pictures. I've dealt with homeless places, and they've sent pictures of homeless people receiving a bike. It's neat to see homeless people receiving something."

Several law enforcement agencies across the metro, including the Gardner Police Department in Johnson County, collect the bikes and deliver them in large batches to Lansing for repair. Some of them arrive in terrible condition. Other bikes arrive in nearly perfect condition from local retailers.

Nonprofits, such as Gardner-based Christmas for Children, identify kids who are in need and get the bikes rolling their way. Margaret Drovetta, Christmas for Children's director, told FOX4 her agency keeps the identity of each family that receives a free bike private.

"Last year, we had one family come in with four little children, and they all four wanted bikes. All four of them got a bike. It was fantastic," Drovetta said.

Rogers pointed out while prisons are places of correction, there`s still trouble to be found. Pollett said he`s thankful this program helps occupy his time while allowing him to show kindness to less-fortunate kids.

Lansing Correctional Facility leaders say other prisons in Kansas offer similar programs, including penitentiaries in Ellsworth and Norton. Lansing's bike program isn't supported by a budget, according to Rogers, who said donations of paint, tools and bicycles are welcome.

American Legion Post #23 in Leavenworth accepts cash donations for the program. The legion post's address is P.O. Box 298, Leavenworth, Kansas 66048.