The Model Prisoner

Follow along with a Maryland inmate who passes the time by immersing himself in model-building from 1970 Chevelle 55’s to John Deere.

Robert Stickel has built models of a carousel, cars, tractors with implements and motorcycles. “Once I made a double-wing airplane,” he says. “I needed to take a break from tractors.”

Maryland inmate passes the time by immersing himself in model-building

It’s not unusual for Robert Stickel to pour hundreds of hours into each of the intricately detailed model tractors he builds. As a prisoner in a Maryland correctional facility, time is the one thing he has in abundant supply.

Now 60, Robert’s been in and out of prison several times over the years. “I never did serious harm to myself or anyone else,” he says. He’s been an inmate at a Maryland prison since 2008; more years will pass before his release. Until then, he pushes back against the weight of time by building models of antique farm equipment. “It gives me something to do,” he says.

In prison, Robert does his best to keep busy. He’s taught himself to read and he’s completed the University of Maryland Extension Service Master Gardener program. He works as a gardener at the 3-acre prison compound from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. As he tends to vegetable gardens, greenhouse plantings and flower beds, he can pretend he’s somewhere else. “Sometimes when I’m gardening,” he says, “I think about being on a John Deere tractor.”

 The operator’s area on Robert’s 1936 John Deere Model D.

Still, afternoons and evenings drag on. Some Sundays, he starts working on his models at 9 a.m., scarcely taking a break until 10 o’clock that night. He avoids the cafeteria, opting instead to buy food at the commissary and heat it in a microwave oven. “I stay to myself,” he says. “I was raised on a hog farm; I don’t like being around a bunch of people.”

3/24/2020 8:08:39 AM

Robert should be in current nonviolent relief program, he has skills plant nurseries etc. could use his skills. Instead of spending thousands yearly to incarcerate him, release him and he can pay taxes. I understand Robert’ s love of tractors we have a 1955 John Deere 60 and a1950 Farmall M. Give me an address and I will pay his membership in The Florida Flywheelers Antique tractor and engine


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