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Inmates Use Technology To Turn Time Served Into Community Service

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HARNETT COUNTY — They have done the crime, and now they are doing the time, but some state inmates are putting that time to good use and schools are benefiting.

Behind the barbed wire at Harnett Correctional Institution, inmates are surrounded by wire of a different kind. They are taking worn-out state surplus computers and updating them for Harnett Central Middle School.

Convicted triple murderer Michael Taylor is serving a life sentence. "I don't want to sit here in prison and vegetate," Taylor says. "It's like being locked in a closet. And if you don't keep yourself busy, you're really stepping backwards."

The inmates went through a two semester on-site college course to learn the skills they need to fix computers. In the long run, many of them plan to use their skills outside of prison. Short term, they are helping the community.

At Harnett Central Middle School, 16 newly refurbished machines in the media center will decrease how long students have to wait to use a computer.

"They're helping us out," student Gwendolyn Beard says. "Even though they are in prison, they are doing what they can to help the community. I think that's great."

Convicted drug trafficker Derrick Sanchez hopes his efforts will give children a better start than he had.

"I want to show how grateful I was to get an opportunity to do this. I want to help those out there so they can get this kind of technology," Sanchez says.

The inmates have placed 3,000 computers in classrooms, saving school systems statewide more than $5 million.