Indiana inmates honor Supreme Court with new conference table
By Vincent Morretino, Communication & Design Specialist • Office of Communication, Education & Outreach
The five Supreme Court Justices regularly meet to discuss cases and administrative matters. The table where they now sit was designed and constructed by inmates at the Pendleton Correctional Facility. The men who are a part of the prison program harnessed exceptional woodworking skills to make the new table for the Indiana Supreme Court’s conference room into a remarkably impressive work of art.
The Indiana-grown hardwoods used to construct the table include birch, cherry, maple, oak, and walnut. Weighing in at more than 800 pounds, the one-piece base of the 6-by-14-foot table was carried by twelve people up two flights of stairs. While less cumbersome, the accompanying drawers and tabletop sections required a team effort to get them in place.
The tabletop features the seal of the Indiana Supreme Court, engraved by a computer-controlled router (CNC) machine, hand-painted in black and gold, and safely protected under tempered glass. The geometric inlaid border along the tabletop matches the inlaid border of the conference room’s wooden floor, and the side edges of the table bear the engraved and hand-painted names of all 111 justices. This thoughtful inclusion not only honors the history of the court but also underscores the enduring commitment to uphold the principles of justice in Indiana.
Further details include machined brass drawer pulls and ports for charging and connecting electronic devices. Underneath the table, the words “Indiana Supreme Court,” flanked on both sides by the court’s seal, are engraved and painted onto the center stretcher. The previous conference room table, rumored to pre-date the current Statehouse, has been relocated to the justices’ robing room.
Chief Justice Loretta Rush and her four colleagues thanked the prison officials who developed and oversee the woodworking program. She explained, “This is more than a table. We sit here and discuss what justice means in our state. It’s profound to know how and where it was crafted.”
While visiting the Pendleton facility in August, Chief Justice Loretta Rush and Justice Derek Molter met the inmates who worked on the table and presented them with a letter thanking them for their work. The letter conveyed to the inmates “the efforts you put into this endeavor reflect the potential for positive change and transformation, which serves as an inspiring example to us all.”
According to Vince Stanley, the plant director at the Pendleton facility, the inmates’ work speaks for itself. “I think the project went very well and this was truly a team effort from the design to the fabrication, CNC work, and finishing of the table. I always enjoy challenging the guys and to date they have always come through with flying colors. Projects like these will become part of history and we are all honored to be part of this.”
The connections between the new conference room table, its creation, and its historic surroundings serve as a reminder that justice, too, is an intricate interplay of various components, each contributing to the greater whole. The underside of the tabletop, as well as a plaque memorializing the table’s place of origin are engraved with the text of Article 1, Section 18 of the Indiana Constitution: “The penal code shall be founded on the principles of reformation, and not of vindictive justice.”