Colorado prison machine shop supervisor Rick Fitzpatrick was mortified when a cable TV producer proposed to make a reality cable show starring prison inmates in the custom motorcycle program, says the Denver Post. The last thing the inmates in a program intended to teach good work habits and viable job skills needed was to face off against prisoners from Nevada in a sort of “American Chopper” meets “American Gladiators” showdown. “It would be our death sentence,” said Fitzpatrick, who created “Old Max Choppers” to teach inmates how to build a motorcycle with parts fabricated at the prison.
This is a serious program, run in a long sliver of a shop behind the prison license-plate factory. Fitzpatrick had men who needed to focus on turning their lives around by learning new skills and work habits, without the drama of possibly becoming cable TV celebrities. The cable show never materialized, but this week the men of Old Max Choppers will deliver a $24,000 custom bike to their first customer. Called “Niteshift,” the sleek black chopper is signed by the inmate designers and emblazoned with the program logo — a view of a guard tower, a skull and “Old Max Choppers” written over it. Old Max Choppers originated from an offhanded joke. David Johnson, who is 51 days away from completing an 18-year prison term for burglary, joked to Fitzpatrick one day that they ought to start a program building choppers. A lot of people would love a bike fabricated in prison, he said.