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Prisoners, PCs, Schools

Here's a nominee for the mutual-benefit award: prisoners refitting used computers that are then donated to schools.

More than a dozen states have such programs. The oldest is California's, which has shipped more than 37,000 rebuilt PCs to classrooms. The Detwiler Foundation, based in California, put up $250,000 to get the program going there, and has been active in helping other states follow suit.

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Inmates learn how to clean and check the machines, install CD Rom drives, sound cards, and new hard drives. In the process, they acquire marketable skills that could help them avoid repeat stays in prison.

Corrections officials have a way to fill inmates' time productively. And students whose districts may be hard put to fulfill mandates to help kids join the information revolution have needed tools, very affordably.

Finally, businesses or individuals have a good use for once-valuable and now-updated equipment that might otherwise have been junked.

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