July 29, 2005

Bighouse Choppers

Here’s a concept that’s sure to keep a lot of stereotypes alive and well. For example, don’t we all know that most bikers and Hell’s Angels have been in prison at some point? (What? You didn’t know that? Must not be watching enough TV.) And, most TV mechanics on Monster Garage, Overhaulin’ and Pimp My Ride look like they’d fit right in behind bars. So why not marry the concepts together, and make a TV show about mechanics that actually are behind bars?

That’s exactly what they’re doing at the Southern Desert Correctional Center outside of Las Vegas. The prison auto restoration shop is in talks to be the focus of a new show called “Bighouse Choppers” on Court TV. Each episode will show the inmates creating a custom car or motorcycle. They’ve already done a pilot apparently, and the result is a motorcycle called “The Shank”. The rear fender struts are actually made out of cell bars!

Howard Skolnik, head of Nevada’s Prison Industries, hopes this show will counterbalance the negative way prison is portrayed on TV, in shows like OZ. But, if you’re showing the prison as a great place to work, doesn’t that hamper its effectiveness as a deterrent to crime? Won’t out-of-work gearheads be trying to break in to prison, so they can have steady jobs and be on TV?

Plus, of course, the show will bring in lots and lots of money for the prison, some of which they may even share with the inmates. I think we may have hit on the real motivation here…

Filed under The Computer Vet Weblog

Comments (13)

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  1. Joe Fazio says:

    While I enjoy following your information on the Ormsby House (and can’t wait for it to re-open), I have to take serious exception to your statement in “Bighouse Choppers” that, “we all know that most bikers…have been in prison”.

    I am a law enforcement officer who has been a bike owner and rider for many years. Not one “biker” I ride with has been in prison, other than the ones who happen to work in a prison! My club, the Blue Knights International Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club is made up of close to 20,000 members world wide and I can guaruntee you that not one of us is a “Hells Angel” wanna-be or a jail bird!
    Check out our website to learn a little more about some “bikers” who do NOT live the stereotype, in fact do everything possible to discount it.


    Perhaps after reading a bit about us, you might consider removing or changing that statement?

    Thanks for your understanding.
    Joe Fazio
    Member, CA-VII Blue Knights

    Posted September 2, 2005 @ 10:02 am
  2. Scott Schrantz says:

    I guess that’s my fault for not making the sarcasm clear enough. I made that statement exactly because it’s not true – we all actually know that the stereotypes are untrue and that riding a bike doesn’t make you a criminal. But the show seems to want us to believe it. The whole concept exists to keep the sterotypes alive. Of course bikes and prisoners belong together – why wouldn’t they?

    So I appreciate you pointing out that my writing wasn’t clear enough to get that across. And I think everyone reading this should follow that link to your website. That looks like a great organization you’re a part of.

    Sorry for the confusion.

    Posted September 2, 2005 @ 9:30 pm
  3. Joe Fazio says:


    The Blue Knights are in a constant battle to overcome that stereotype, so you can understand my initial reaction to the post.

    Thank you for clearing that up!

    Take care, and keep up the great and informative website[s]!

    Posted September 6, 2005 @ 10:38 am
  4. Nez says:

    Scott, I’m a close neighbor of yours, although I’m temporarily located in Nashville, TN–[see http//:thesouthsucks.blogspot.com for my impression of the differences]
    We still own our home up in the Virginia City Highlands, where we have lived and loved for the past 20 years, we will be returning HOME just as soon as I can get this job in Nashville completed! But I digress� (Your pic of the Sierra really made us homesick)
    Re the post–I was watching the morning news here in Nashville and they actually carried this story on Big House choppers! Since it was both close to my real home and of personal interest to me, I went directly to the web to do a little more research and found your site here. At first glance, I must say, I had a similar reaction to our man in Blue, Joe Fazio.
    After reading your response, I calmed down a bit, but wrote this laborious, tangential post to you because in the VC Highlands there are a large number of people who do view those who ride–especially custom scooters–as life forms just a maggot’s breath above pure feces.
    As one who has ridden motorcycles almost my entire life, I take great umbrage at this, especially when I think about all the clean-cut effort I put into getting my master’s degree and making myself exceptionally successful in the business world.
    It�s unfortunate that so many shows seem to glorify the �scooter-trash� biker look and while I would never be so presumptuous as to dictate how one should dress, a picture is worth a thousand words. The images of hardcore scooter tramps hang like the proverbial �jacket� around the rest of us. Rest assured, that image continues to scare and polarize; the posts to the VCH message board during bike week and Thunder on the Mountain provide a perfect window into the minds of those who still think that everyone who rides belongs behind bars.
    While bikers have made significant progress in �mainstreaming� the lifestyle, the misconceptions continue and with it, the prejudice, fear and stupidity bred of ignorance. Thanks for helping to eliminate a little of that here!
    Ride hard, live long, prosper!

    Posted November 15, 2005 @ 5:32 am
  5. Michelle says:

    In reading the response to your initial statement, there will always be a “dark” image of bikers because of the way the media has portrayed them in the news, on TV, etc. Maybe it’s time that those who are bikers – like the Knights – should use the strength of their organization to change the “dark” image to that of one of helpful, responsible and fun loving bikers who aren’t out to do harm. I myself have experienced that no matter what a biker portrays on the outside by their looks, I would much rather meet a biker in a dark alley than a guy in a three piece suit! As for the Blue Knights – keep up the good work and thanks for the job you do! Maybe have the Knights go in and work with the inmates of Big House Choppers – what about it?

    Posted November 15, 2005 @ 7:42 am
  6. Vet says:

    Why do the Blue Knights wear an OUTLAW THREE PIECE PATCH?? You cops ride around and portray yourselves as Bad Ass Bikers but the only thing you have is a gun and a badge. I have been in bars and at runs where you try to throw your weight around. I would go toe to toe with you pigs anyday if you didn’t have that badge. You all should be fired or suspended for portraying the OUTLAW IMAGE. I wonder why none of the REAL Biker community ever invites you to their runs…….PIG IDIOTS

    Posted November 15, 2005 @ 9:22 am
  7. FIZKID says:

    Most “bikers” are not in prison and have not been to prison. I don’t know where you got that fact from…

    This might have been true back in the day with the “outlaw” chopper scene. Bikers have changed. There are all types not just “bad seeds”. Police officers, computer geeks, business men, actors, women; all good examples of a new era of bikers. Get your facts straight before making an absurd assumption.

    Posted November 17, 2005 @ 7:43 am
  8. Fred says:

    Fred’s 2 cents worth:
    Seems to me that everyone is real caught up in image & misses the boat of reality called “it’s just a mortorcycle”. Either you like to ride or not. The rest of it is just which flag you decide to wave. Has nothing to do with biking. GET A CLUE!

    More pearls of wisdom available at Fredville –

    Posted November 19, 2005 @ 10:27 am
  9. Razor says:

    Well, aside from the fact that MY BROTHER is in the Nevada admin and probably supervises the bike assembly (among other things)…

    The stereotypes aren’t a big surprise. Nor is the rest of the ignorant spin in the original post. But we get more spin than this from television.

    Here’s the deal – Nevada state prisons are trying to make a profit, as anyone else is in this country. If they make awesome rides and can back up their offerings with service and support, then I say they are a worthy source.

    Why would it bother you that they get air time? Is it because they have an original idea? God forbid!

    Does it bother you that persons who have committed Federal crimes might do something positive with their time in jail? I think maybe we’ve now hit the crux of your prejudicial ignorance.

    Cons, or ex-cons are lower forms of life in your opinion. Isn’t that so?

    But the next time you step into a limousene in Las Vegas, you might consider where it came from. The boys at the pennitentiary make those too – books….let’s see… what else? OH MY GOODNESS!!!!! The whole world is tainted with convict labor!!!!!

    Just to add something to your cause….I think convict labor is akin to slave labor. But that’s another issue aside from the one brought up here. Go ahead and bring that up for debate if it suits you…but don’t mix your words.

    Posted March 5, 2006 @ 12:02 am
  10. Razor says:

    One more FYI – first offender DUI convicts get 6 months prison time in Nevada. So the next time your local fuzz arrests you for it (being that you aren’t in NV), appreciate that you might not have the option of building choppers for the next 6 months…. because your state offers DUI school as an option to jail time.

    But also appreciate that not every convict in Nevada is unlike yourself. You DO get into the car above the legal limit sometimes, don’t you?

    We’re all people. I don’t like all of them either, but they have the same rights I do…unless they are convicts.

    Posted March 5, 2006 @ 12:11 am
  11. Razor says:

    BTW – your Nevada state prison links are dead. Hopefully so is this sorry-ass subject.

    Posted March 5, 2006 @ 12:19 am
  12. Don Peppino says:

    Hey Vet:
    1st of all the Blue Knights wear a three piece patch because they CAN, and I KNOW that just pisses you wanna-bes off to no end because you can not dictate to them that they need “permission” (ha, what a joke!!) to wear said patches. Second, those you “claim” to have run into in bars were in all likelihood NOT Blue Knights but some other form of cop club, and there are a few out there that want to look like scumbag outlaws. The Blue Knights are NOT such a club. So do you home work before you go making statements that show your ignorance and low self-esteem, umm-k?

    Posted March 6, 2006 @ 4:07 pm
  13. Keith Lipsey says:

    My question is this: If outlaws predominately ride motorcycles, does motorcycling make you an outlaw? Black vests, 3 pieces, loud pipes, etc….these images do not supercede behavior. I am surprised at all the millenium bikers on the net because in this NO Profile taboo nation, we are suppose to measure the behavior and NOT the image.. live up to your own expectations and do not validate the acusers with defense….it suggests that you subscribe. In the imortal words of Eleanor Roosevelt “No one can make you feel inferior, without your consent” Be proud and know of your superior values donning your Blue Knight colors.

    Posted August 25, 2007 @ 7:06 pm

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