In secret, behind locked gates, our Nation's Oldest City dumped a landfill in a lake (Old City Reservoir), while emitting sewage in our rivers and salt marsh. Organized citizens exposed and defeated pollution, racism and cronyism. We elected a new Mayor. We're transforming our City -- advanced citizenship. Ask questions. Make disclosures. Demand answers. Be involved. Expect democracy. Report and expose corruption. Smile! Help enact a St. Augustine National Park and Seashore. We shall overcome!
Tuesday, January 01, 2019
Alachua County ends prison labor contract
From Gainesville Sun:
County ends prison labor contract
By Sarah Nelson / Staff writer
Posted Dec 13, 2018 at 6:35 PMUpdated Dec 13, 2018 at 6:35 PM
A state DOC spokeswoman said prisoners are often glad to work outside of state institutions, because it shaves time from their sentences and gives them a chance to be outdoors.
Alachua County has agreed to sever its contracts that allow the use of prison labor.
Come Dec. 31, the county’s Public Works department will no longer use inmates to perform manual labor such as picking up litter, filling potholes, mixing concrete and mowing lawns.
The decision came at the tail end of a county commission meeting Tuesday after several people approached the board asking for the Inmate Work Program to end.
One former inmate called the program “slave labor,” and many others after him expressed concern over crews not being paid.
Commissioner Ken Cornell said the county’s current $496,294 contract with the state’s Department of Corrections allowed for the program to be discontinued at any time.
About 35 inmates make up the six labor crews that go out each day. The groups work a little more than seven hours, with two 15-minute breaks.
Each inmate in a DOC institution is assigned a job. Those who have a lower security risk and shorter sentences can be assigned to an outside work camp. According to a report presented to the county by Public Works, inmates they select also have a history of good behavior and are screened beforehand.
Inmates who work outside prison can earn up to 10 days off their sentence per month, capping at 15 percent of their total time.
The report, presented in May, also states the county would have to spend more than $857,000 to replace the labor crews with full-time employees.
Public Works director Ramon Gavarrete said the department will need to look for new ways to pick up trash and litter now that the crews will no longer be an option. He said the inmates learn valuable skills while on the labor force that could lead to jobs later in life.
“We have people who work with us for some time and actually get to learn skills, like how to install a pipe,” Gavarrete said. “Those are the things that are going to get impacted by not having labor force.”
Michelle Glady, spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Corrections, said she isn’t sure how Alachua County’s decision will affect her department. More local DOC representatives from the Gainesville Work Camp on Northeast 55th Boulevard, said they weren’t allowed to speak to reporters.
Glady said the inmates’ ability to work outdoors, beyond prison walls, is a privilege. The work, she said, like most inmate jobs, is unpaid.
While she said she couldn’t speak for every inmate, she said many are excited for the opportunity to work outside.
Commissioner Robert Hutchinson said the decision is a way to get the ball rolling in terms of addressing how prisoners are treated.
“We wanted to send a strong signal,” Hutchinson said. “I view it as a way to get the conversation started with the Department of Corrections and the judicial system in general about how prison labor is handled.”
The decision only ends inmate labor used by the county.
City of Gainesville officials have been debating the issue, as well, and currently plan to end their use of prison labor by Oct. 1, 2019.