Inmates oblivious to car tag bickering

Monday, May 8th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

HOMINY, Okla. (AP) -- All the bickering over car tags at the state Capitol isn't affecting the men who make them at Dick Conner Correctional Center.

They're still stamping out about 20,000 license plates a day.

"That has nothing to do with us," says Bob Tomlinson, industry trial manager for Oklahoma Correctional Industries.

Oklahoma inmates toil at making car tags that cost the state about $1.50.

Then the state of Oklahoma turns around and sells them for a tidy profit -- say in the $250 neighborhood for a $20,000 car, according to a tax commission spokeswoman.

High car tag fees are irritating consumers and consuming political leaders wrestling with ways to cut tag costs as the legislative session winds down.

Nonetheless, the inmates plug along making $35 a month, with veteran tag makers earning about $50 a month.

"If I can work for $50 a month, I can work for minimum wage," said James Hall, an inmate serving time for assault with a deadly weapon. Hall has been making tags for about three years.

"I've learned to accept a little supervision," Hall said. "Now, if I get a boss who's a little hard, I know how to deal with him. He ain't gonna be no harder than Mr. Bob."

Inmates have to apply for the 35 or so positions making tags.

"If a guy fails a drug test or if a guy has a dirty room -- we terminate his employment," said Tomlinson.

Hall may make 3,500 to 5,000 license plates in a day. His record is 6,500 a day.

The prison inmates make license tags for American Indian tribes. Those cost about $3.50 a tag because of lesser volume. And personalized tags garner about $2.41 apiece.

Seventy-year-old convicted murderer Roy Ramaseyer makes about 325 personalized tags a day. Some tags make even Ramaseyer do a double take on the spelling.

"It may not look right to you, but that's the way people want them," he said.