By Joe Novak
I admit to doing sme questionable things in my life, but none deserved incarceration! My time in prison was spent teaching inmates at Michigan State prison in Jackson, Michigan how to set up tube bending dies on a Pines Tube bender. I worked for H & H tool division of Teledyne Pines. Pines manufactured the machine tool and H & H made the dies that formed and bent steel tubing.
The prisoners at Jackson made metal furniture requiring steel tubing bent in various shapes for legs and other miscellaneous parts. My job was to sell Jackson dies and then instruct the inmates how to use them. The parochial school nuns had a saying; “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” I believe the prison system had the same idea keeping prisoners busy would keep them out of trouble.
The first time I entered the prison, I had no idea what awaited me inside those walls. I signed in, was thoroughly searched and relieved of all my possessions not absolutely necessary to fulfill my duties. My hands were marked with invisible ink that would glow under a black light as I exited the prison later that day. I was given a visitor’s badge and wrist band with an area designation where I was allowed to go. I was escorted to the workshop where a prison trustee assisted me in training the designated inmates.
I don’t recall being nervous or scared while inside the prison; there were certainly enough armed guards keeping an eye on me! The inmates I worked with tried to spook me by pointing out certain individuals describing in detail the horrific deeds that got them put away – many for life. Fact or fiction, I will never know; however, I kept my distance from those individuals.
When I would ask what they were in for, most admitted that it was poor judgement or acquaintances that led them astray. These were ordinary guys that took a costly wrong turn down a dead-end path.
On Thursday, June 5, I was at Jackson State prison for the last time. Had I waited another day, I would not have missed all the excitement. On June 6 at 11:05 a.m., inmate Dale Remling broke out of prison by helicopter that a friend of his had commandeered. My boss got a call from the prison asking about my character and if I was capable of being involved. I am not certain what he told them, but no police showed up at my house.
Dale and his accomplice were arrested a short time later and they both got 20 years for air piracy. Dale was arrested at a bar having a drink. That was one very expensive beer! The prison closed Nov. 17, 2007.
Joe Joke: One company owner asks another company owner, “How do you get all your employees to show up on time every morning?” “Easy, 30 employees, 25 parking spots,” he answered.
Joe Novak retired from PGS,Inc., a manufacturing company he sold in 2005. He has written more than 140 articles for The Middlefield Post and is active in his community and church. Joe’s articles are based on his life and business experiences and though he tries to be as accurate as possible, he recommends you contact an expert or professional when in doubt.